a unit for comparing two currents, voltages, or power levels, equal to one tenth of a bel
a similar unit for measuring the intensity of a sound. It is equal to ten times the logarithm to the base ten of the ratio of the intensity of the sound to be measured to the intensity of some reference sound, usually the lowest audible note of the same frequency
Progress in science and industry is constantly demanding new terms and one of the latest of these is the word "decibel," coined by telephone engineers to describe the efficiency of telephone circuits. It is a substitute for the phrase "transmission unit." The actual unit decided upon was first called "bel," after the inventor of the telephone. The bel, however, is larger than is needed in practice, and, therefore, a unit one-tenth as large was adopted by engineers and named the decibel. ["Popular Mechanics," May 1929]
A unit used to measure the power of a signal, such as an electrical signal or sound, relative to some reference level. An increase of ten decibels in the power of a signal is equivalent to increasing its power by a factor of ten. As a measure of sound intensity, a zero-decibel reference is stipulated to be the lowest level audible to the human ear; the speaking voice of most people ranges from 45 to 75 decibels.