radio silence

[ rey-dee-oh sahy-luhns ]
/ ˈreɪ diˌoʊ ˈsaɪ ləns /
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a state or period of time in which radios are not transmitting signals:The planes were required to maintain radio silence until their mission was accomplished.The week’s stormy weather has caused local radio silence.
a period of time in which a person or organization is not communicating as usual: Sorry for the radio silence, but from now on my blog posts will be more regular.
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Origin of radio silence

First recorded in 1920–25

OTHER WORDS FROM radio silence

ra·di·o si·lent, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does radio silence mean?

Radio silence is most commonly used figuratively to refer to the (often conspicuous or unusual) absence of communication from someone or between two parties.

Example: Requests for interviews with the senator were met with radio silence.

Example: There was a flurry of posts followed by complete radio silence—leading to suspicion that he deleted his account.

Example: It’s unlike my aunts to let there be radio silence on the group text.

Sometimes, the phrase is used in military and law enforcement contexts to refer to a period of silence over radio communication that’s ordered or observed for the sake of safety or secrecy, such to prevent sensitive information from being intercepted.

Example: The general ordered radio silence to maintain secrecy before the operation.

Originally, radio silence was used in a literal way to refer to a period during which a radio broadcast is not active for some reason—resulting in literal silence (similar to how the term dead air is often used).

Where does radio silence come from?

The term radio silence has been used since the early 1900s. It was originally used in a literal sense to refer to periods when radios become silent for one reason or another.

The earliest known records of the figurative use of radio silence come from the 1970s.

The term eventually became associated with the common practice of radios being used for military communications—and the need for total silence in some situations.

How is radio silence used in real life?

Radio silence is most often used figuratively to mean an unusual absence of communication by someone or between people.



Additional examples

Amodio told Newsweek that there had been “radio silence all the way” from the team at Twitter, leaving him in the dark as to why the apparent blip happened.
—Ryan Smith, Newsweek, December 3, 2021

How to use radio silence in a sentence