unable to hear and speak.


a person who is unable to hear and speak, especially one in whom inability to speak is due to congenital or early deafness.

Origin of deaf-mute

1830–40; translation of French sourd-muet
Related formsdeaf-mute·ness, deaf-mut·ism, noun

Usage note

See dumb. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for deaf-mute

Contemporary Examples of deaf-mute

Historical Examples of deaf-mute

  • By this plan Maine is said to have been without a deaf-mute pauper in ten years.

    The Deaf

    Harry Best

  • In all cases it was the deaf-mute from birth who suffered most.

    The Deaf

    Harry Best

  • The deaf-mute and the blind are deprived of normal avenues to communication.

  • A thought flashed through Hugh's mind,—the man might be a deaf-mute.

    Fernley House

    Laura E. Richards

  • He is as silent as a deaf-mute and I have no doubt is the soul of discretion.

    Passing By

    Maurice Baring

British Dictionary definitions for deaf-mute



a person who is unable to hear or speakSee also mute 1 (def. 7), mutism (def. 2b)


unable to hear or speak
Derived Formsdeaf-muteness or deaf-mutism, noun

Word Origin for deaf-mute

C19: translation of French sourd-muet


Using this word to refer to people without speech is considered outdated and offensive, and should be avoided. The phrase profoundly deaf is a suitable alternative in many contexts
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

deaf-mute in Medicine




A person who can neither hear nor speak. No longer in technical use.


Unable to speak or hear.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.