adjective, deaf·er, deaf·est.
  1. partially or wholly lacking or deprived of the sense of hearing; unable to hear.
  2. refusing to listen, heed, or be persuaded; unreasonable or unyielding: deaf to all advice.
  3. (initial capital letter) of or relating to the Deaf or their cultural community: Deaf customs and values.
noun (used with a plural verb)
  1. deaf persons collectively (usually preceded by the): social services for the deaf.
  2. (initial capital letter) deaf persons who identify themselves as members of a community composed of deaf persons and others who share in their culture (usually preceded by the).

Origin of deaf

before 900; Middle English deef, Old English dēaf; cognate with Middle Low German dōf, Dutch doof, Old High German toub
Related formsdeaf·ly, adverbdeaf·ness, nounhalf-deaf, adjectivenon·deaf, adjectivenon·deaf·ly, adverbnon·deaf·ness, nounqua·si-deaf, adjectivequa·si-deaf·ly, adverbsem·i·deaf, adjectivesem·i·deaf·ness, nounun·deaf, adjective

Pronunciation note

Deaf is usually pronounced [def] /dɛf/, with the vowel of left. In uneducated speech the dialectal pronunciation [deef] /dif/, to rhyme with leaf, is still heard occasionally, but it is increasingly rare.

Usage note

See dumb. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for half-deaf

Historical Examples of half-deaf

British Dictionary definitions for half-deaf


    1. partially or totally unable to hear
    2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the deaf See also tone-deaf
  1. refusing to heeddeaf to the cries of the hungry
Derived Formsdeafly, adverbdeafness, noun

Word Origin for deaf

Old English dēaf; related to Old Norse daufr


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 half-deaf



Old English deaf "deaf," also "empty, barren," specialized from Proto-Germanic *daubaz (cf. Old Saxon dof, Old Norse daufr, Old Frisian daf, Dutch doof "deaf," German taub, Gothic daufs "deaf, insensate"), from PIE dheubh-, which was used to form words meaning "confusion, stupefaction, dizziness" (cf. Greek typhlos "blind).

The word was pronounced to rhyme with reef until 18c. Deaf-mute is from 1837, after French sourd-muet. Deaf-mutes were sought after in 18c.-19c. Britain as fortune-tellers. Deaf as an adder (Old English) is from Psalms lviii:5.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

half-deaf in Medicine


  1. Partially or completely lacking in the sense of hearing.
  2. Deaf Of or relating to the Deaf or their culture.
  1. Deaf people considered as a group.
  2. Deaf The community of deaf people who use American Sign Language as a primary means of communication.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with half-deaf


In addition to the idiom beginning with deaf

  • deaf as a post

also see:

  • fall on deaf ears
  • stone deaf
  • turn a deaf ear
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.