See more synonyms for mute on
adjective, mut·er, mut·est.
  1. silent; refraining from speech or utterance.
  2. not emitting or having sound of any kind.
  3. incapable of speech; dumb.
  4. (of letters) silent; not pronounced.
  5. 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).
  6. Fox Hunting. (of a hound) hunting a line without giving tongue or cry.
  1. Offensive. a person incapable of speech.
  2. an actor whose part is confined to dumb show.
  3. Law. a person who stands mute when arraigned.
  4. Also called sordino. a mechanical device of various shapes and materials for muffling the tone of a musical instrument.
  5. Phonetics. a stop.
  6. British Obsolete. a hired mourner at a funeral; a professional mourner.
verb (used with object), mut·ed, mut·ing.
  1. to deaden or muffle the sound of.
  2. 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. 2018

Related Words for mutely

quietly, calmly, mutely, noiselessly, stilly

Examples from the Web for mutely

Historical Examples of mutely

  • Said, and mutely reproached him with all the pain she had wrought him.


    William D. Howells

  • Mutely together they moved through the lonesome, odorous twilight.


    William D. Howells

  • Daman looked at them mutely and ardently, as if consumed by an unspeakable longing.

    The Rescue

    Joseph Conrad

  • I was not afraid, but my head swam a little and I only looked at him mutely.

    The Arrow of Gold

    Joseph Conrad

  • When she noticed that Thornton was not eating or drinking she questioned him mutely with her eyes.

    The Man Who Wins

    Robert Herrick

British Dictionary definitions for mutely


  1. not giving out sound or speech; silent
  2. unable to speak; dumb
  3. unspoken or unexpressedmute dislike
  4. law (of a person arraigned on indictment) refusing to answer a charge
  5. phonetics another word for plosive
  6. (of a letter in a word) silent
  1. a person who is unable to speak
  2. law a person who refuses to plead when arraigned on indictment for an offence
  3. any of various devices used to soften the tone of stringed or brass instruments
  4. phonetics a plosive consonant; stop
  5. a silent letter
  6. an actor in a dumb show
  7. a hired mourner at a funeral
verb (tr)
  1. to reduce the volume of (a musical instrument) by means of a mute, soft pedal, etc
  2. 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


  1. (of birds) to discharge (faeces)
  1. 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 mutely

1620s, from mute (adj.) + -ly (2).



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

mutely in Medicine


  1. Unable or unwilling to speak.
  1. 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.