making a droning sound; buzzing.
very busy; briskly active: a humming office.

Origin of humming

First recorded in 1570–80; hum + -ing2
Related formshum·ming·ly, adverb



verb (used without object), hummed, hum·ming.

to make a low, continuous, droning sound.
to give forth an indistinct sound of mingled voices or noises.
to utter an indistinct sound in hesitation, embarrassment, dissatisfaction, etc.; hem.
to sing with closed lips, without articulating words.
to be in a state of busy activity: The household hummed in preparation for the wedding.
British Slang. to have a bad odor, as of stale perspiration.

verb (used with object), hummed, hum·ming.

to sound, sing, or utter by humming: to hum a tune.
to bring, put, etc., by humming: to hum a child to sleep.


the act or sound of humming; an inarticulate or indistinct murmur; hem.
Audio. an unwanted low-frequency sound caused by power-line frequencies in any audio component.


(an inarticulate sound uttered in contemplation, hesitation, dissatisfaction, doubt, etc.)

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

Related Words for humming

busy, brisk, buzzing, bustling, hopping

Examples from the Web for humming

Contemporary Examples of humming

Historical Examples of humming

  • She went about her work that morning humming under her breath.

  • He lighted the lantern, and Hal Dozier went down the steep steps, humming.

  • She knew the humming and hawing gentleman—had heard him often before.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • They are all gone now, but then they were humming and teeming with work.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • The air was full of laughter, talk, whistling and humming of the airs from the opera.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

British Dictionary definitions for humming


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 humming



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

humming in Medicine




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.