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 hums

Contemporary Examples of hums

  • The small Turkish city of Kilis, on the border with Syria, hums quietly with rebel activity from the neighboring civil war.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Can the Syrian Rebels Unite?

    Mike Giglio

    November 30, 2012

  • He strokes the photocopier; he adores the machine, the way it flashes like lightning as it works, the way it whirs and hums.

Historical Examples of hums

  • "I don't care what becomes of me," she hums over my shoulder.


    Sewell Ford

  • Yes, and she hums snatches of songs under her breath as she works.

  • The thought of you galloping to me goes through me like a flame that hums.

  • There's no doubt about that; and you're all a set of hums, together—you hen-men!

  • Further, if Marten hums and haws about the amount, ascertain what sum will satisfy him.

British Dictionary definitions for hums



a variant of Homs


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 hums



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

hums 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.