of low intensity and reduced volume; softened: She spoke in muted tones.

Origin of muted

First recorded in 1860–65; mute + -ed2
Related formsmut·ed·ly, adverbun·mut·ed, adjective



adjective, mut·er, mut·est.

silent; refraining from speech or utterance.
not emitting or having sound of any kind.
incapable of speech; dumb.
(of letters) silent; not pronounced.
Law. (of a person who has been arraigned) making no plea or giving an irrelevant response when arraigned, or refusing to stand trial (used chiefly in the phrase to stand mute).
Fox Hunting. (of a hound) hunting a line without giving tongue or cry.


Offensive. a person incapable of speech.
an actor whose part is confined to dumb show.
Law. a person who stands mute when arraigned.
Also called sordino. a mechanical device of various shapes and materials for muffling the tone of a musical instrument.
Phonetics. a stop.
British Obsolete. a hired mourner at a funeral; a professional mourner.

verb (used with object), mut·ed, mut·ing.

to deaden or muffle the sound of.
to reduce the intensity of (a color) by the addition of another color.

Origin of mute

1325–75; < Latin mūtus dumb; replacing Middle English muet < Middle French, equivalent to Old French mu (< Latin mūtus) + unexplained suffix -et; cf. -et
Related formsmute·ly, adverbmute·ness, noun
Can be confusedmoot mute

Antonyms for mute

Usage note

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

Examples from the Web for muted

Contemporary Examples of muted

Historical Examples of muted

  • For the time being, conscience was muted by gratified ambition.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Then to his ears came the most welcome soft roar of muted rockets.

    Pirates of the Gorm

    Nat Schachner

  • Muted cornets, banjos and saxophones were wailing out a tom-tom adagio.

    Erik Dorn

    Ben Hecht

  • There was a peculiar, throaty quality in her voice, like a muted violin or 'cello.

  • “You will not be lonely,” said the unfortunate man in a muted voice.

    The Man Who Lost Himself

    H. De Vere Stacpoole

British Dictionary definitions for muted



(of a sound or colour) softeneda muted pink shirt
(of an emotion or action) subdued or restrainedhis response was muted
(of a musical instrument) being played while fitted with a mutemuted trumpet




not giving out sound or speech; silent
unable to speak; dumb
unspoken or unexpressedmute dislike
law (of a person arraigned on indictment) refusing to answer a charge
phonetics another word for plosive
(of a letter in a word) silent


a person who is unable to speak
law a person who refuses to plead when arraigned on indictment for an offence
any of various devices used to soften the tone of stringed or brass instruments
phonetics a plosive consonant; stop
a silent letter
an actor in a dumb show
a hired mourner at a funeral

verb (tr)

to reduce the volume of (a musical instrument) by means of a mute, soft pedal, etc
to subdue the strength of (a colour, tone, lighting, etc)
Derived Formsmutely, adverbmuteness, noun

Word Origin for mute

C14: muwet from Old French mu, from Latin mūtus silent


Using this word to refer to people without speech is considered outdated and offensive and should be avoided. The phrase profoundly deaf is a suitable alternative in many contexts




(of birds) to discharge (faeces)


birds' faeces

Word Origin for mute

C15: from Old French meutir, variant of esmeltir, of Germanic origin; probably related to smelt 1 and melt
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 muted

1861, in reference to musical instruments, past participle adjective from mute (v.). Figuratively by 1879. Of colors by 1939. Related: mutedness.



late 14c., mewet "silent," from Old French muet "dumb, mute" (12c.), diminutive of mut, mo, from Latin mutus "silent, speechless, dumb," probably from imitative base *meue- (cf. Sanskrit mukah "dumb," Greek myein "to be shut," of the mouth). Form assimilated in 16c. to Latin mutus.



"deaden the sound of," 1861, from mute (n.). Related: Muted; muting.



1570s, "stage actor in a dumb show;" 1610s as "person who does not speak," from mute (adj.). Musical sense first recorded 1811 of stringed instruments, 1841, of horns.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for muted




Unable or unwilling to speak.


One who does not have the faculty of speech. No longer in technical use; considered offensive.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.