dumb

[duhm]

adjective, dumb·er, dumb·est.

Verb Phrases

dumb down, Informal. to make or become less intellectual, simpler, or less sophisticated: to dumb down a textbook; American movies have dumbed down.

Origin of dumb

before 1000; Old English; cognate with Old Norse dumbr, Gothic dumbs, Old Saxon dumb, Old High German tump, German dumm
Related formsdumb·ly, adverbdumb·ness, nounqua·si-dumb, adjectivequa·si-dumb·ly, adverb

Usage note

Dumb in the sense “lacking the power of speech” is perceived as insulting when describing humans (but not animals), probably because dumb also means “stupid; dull-witted.” The noun dummy in the sense “person who lacks the power of speech” is also perceived as insulting, as are the terms deaf-and-dumb, deaf-mute, and mute. The adjective hearing-impaired is acceptable though not the term of choice, partly because it lacks directness. The preferred term is deaf, which makes no reference to an inability to speak or communicate; the capitalized Deaf signals membership in this community.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


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British Dictionary definitions for dumb

dumb

adjective

lacking the power to speak, either because of defects in the vocal organs or because of hereditary deafness
lacking the power of human speechdumb animals
temporarily lacking or bereft of the power to speakstruck dumb
refraining from speech; uncommunicative
producing no sound; silenta dumb piano
made, done, or performed without speech
informal
  1. slow to understand; dim-witted
  2. foolish; stupidSee also dumb down
(of a projectile or bomb) not guided to its target
Derived Formsdumbly, adverbdumbness, noun

Word Origin for dumb

Old English; related to Old Norse dumbr, Gothic dumbs, Old High German tump
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

Word Origin and History for dumb
adj.

Old English dumb "silent, unable to speak," from PIE *dheubh- "confusion, stupefaction, dizziness," from root *dheu- (1) "dust, mist, vapor, smoke," and related notions of "defective perception or wits."

The Old English, Old Saxon (dumb), Gothic (dumbs), and Old Norse (dumbr) forms of the word meant only "mute, speechless;" in Old High German (thumb) it meant both this and "stupid," and in Modern German this latter became the only sense. Meaning "foolish, ignorant" was occasionally in Middle English, but modern use (1823) comes from influence of German dumm. Related: dumber; dumbest.

Applied to silent contrivances, hence dumbwaiter. As a verb, in late Old English, "to become mute;" c.1600, "to make mute." To dumb (something) down is from 1933.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper