Origin of hum

1300–50; Middle English; ultimately imitative; cognate with German hummen to hum; cf. humblebee
Related formsun·der·hum, noun

Synonyms for hum

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

Examples from the Web for hum

Contemporary Examples of hum

Historical Examples of hum

  • "Hum," remarked Uncle Peter, in a tone to be noticed for its extreme dryness.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He heard the hum and clang of an electric car off through a chestnut grove.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I don't quite think myself a lady-killer: by George, my—hum!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • The Sunday landscape was very still, save for the hum of busy insect life.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • The bystanders did, and a hum of curiosity circled round; who could they be?

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

British Dictionary definitions for hum


verb hums, humming or hummed

(intr) to make a low continuous vibrating sound like that of a prolonged m
(intr) (of a person) to sing with the lips closed
(intr) to utter an indistinct sound, as in hesitation; hem
(intr) informal to be in a state of feverish activity
(intr) British and Irish slang to smell unpleasant
(intr) Australian slang to scrounge
hum and haw See hem 2 (def. 3)


a low continuous murmuring sound
electronics an undesired low-frequency noise in the output of an amplifier or receiver, esp one caused by the power supply
Australian slang a scrounger; cadger
British and Irish slang an unpleasant odour

interjection, noun

an indistinct sound of hesitation, embarrassment, etc; hem
Derived Formshummer, noun

Word Origin for hum

C14: of imitative origin; compare Dutch hommelen, Old High German humbal bumblebee
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 hum

late 14c., hommen "make a murmuring sound to cover embarrassment," later hummen "to buzz, drone" (early 15c.), probably of imitative origin. Sense of "sing with closed lips" is first attested late 15c.; that of "be busy and active" is 1884, perhaps on analogy of a beehive. Related: Hummed; humming. Humming-bird (1630s) so called from sound made by the rapid vibration of its wings.

There is a curious bird to see to, called a humming bird, no bigger then a great Beetle. [Thomas Morton, "New English Canaan," 1637]

mid-15c., from hum (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for hum




A low, continuous murmur blended of many sounds.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.