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  1. the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.
  2. mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air at a speed of approximately 1087 feet (331 meters) per second at sea level.
  3. the particular auditory effect produced by a given cause: the sound of music.
  4. any auditory effect; any audible vibrational disturbance: all kinds of sounds.
  5. a noise, vocal utterance, musical tone, or the like: the sounds from the next room.
  6. a distinctive, characteristic, or recognizable musical style, as from a particular performer, orchestra, or type of arrangement: the big-band sound.
  7. Phonetics.
    1. speech sound.
    2. the audible result of an utterance or portion of an utterance: the s-sound in “slight”; the sound of m in “mere.”
  8. the auditory effect of sound waves as transmitted or recorded by a particular system of sound reproduction: the sound of a stereophonic recording.
  9. the quality of an event, letter, etc., as it affects a person: This report has a bad sound.
  10. the distance within which the noise of something may be heard.
  11. mere noise, without meaning: all sound and fury.
  12. Archaic. a report or rumor; news; tidings.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to make or emit a sound.
  2. to give forth a sound as a call or summons: The bugle sounded as the troops advanced.
  3. to be heard, as a sound.
  4. to convey a certain impression when heard or read: to sound strange.
  5. to give a specific sound: to sound loud.
  6. to give the appearance of being; seem: The report sounds true.
  7. Law. to have as its basis or foundation (usually followed by in): His action sounds in contract.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to make or emit a sound: to sound a bell.
  2. to give forth (a sound): The oboe sounded an A.
  3. to announce, order, or direct by or as by a sound: The bugle sounded retreat. His speech sounded a warning to aggressor nations.
  4. to utter audibly, pronounce, or express: to sound each letter.
  5. to examine by percussion or auscultation: to sound a patient's chest.
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Verb Phrases
  1. sound off, Informal.
    1. to call out one's name, as at military roll call.
    2. to speak freely or frankly, especially to complain in such a manner.
    3. to exaggerate; boast: Has he been sounding off about his golf game again?
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Origin of sound1

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English soun < Anglo-French (Old French son) < Latin sonus; (v.) Middle English sounen < Old French suner < Latin sonāre, derivative of sonus
Related formssound·a·ble, adjectiveun·sound·a·ble, adjective

Synonym study

1. Sound, noise, tone refer to something heard. Sound and noise are often used interchangeably for anything perceived by means of hearing. Sound, however, is more general in application, being used for anything within earshot: the sound of running water. Noise, caused by irregular vibrations, is more properly applied to a loud, discordant, or unpleasant sound: the noise of shouting. Tone is applied to a musical sound having a certain quality, resonance, and pitch.


adjective, sound·er, sound·est.
  1. free from injury, damage, defect, disease, etc.; in good condition; healthy; robust: a sound heart; a sound mind.
  2. financially strong, secure, or reliable: a sound business; sound investments.
  3. competent, sensible, or valid: sound judgment.
  4. having no defect as to truth, justice, wisdom, or reason: sound advice.
  5. of substantial or enduring character: sound moral values.
  6. following in a systematic pattern without any apparent defect in logic: sound reasoning.
  7. uninterrupted and untroubled; deep: sound sleep.
  8. vigorous, thorough, or severe: a sound thrashing.
  9. free from moral defect or weakness; upright, honest, or good; honorable; loyal.
  10. having no legal defect: a sound title to property.
  11. theologically correct or orthodox, as doctrines or a theologian.
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  1. deeply; thoroughly: sound asleep.
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Origin of sound2

1150–1200; Middle English sund, Old English gesund (see y-); cognate with Dutch gezond, German gesund
Related formssound·ly, adverbsound·ness, noun


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verb (used with object)
  1. to measure or try the depth of (water, a deep hole, etc.) by letting down a lead or plummet at the end of a line, or by some equivalent means.
  2. to measure (depth) in such a manner, as at sea.
  3. to examine or test (the bottom, as of the sea or a deep hole) with a lead that brings up adhering bits of matter.
  4. to examine or investigate; seek to fathom or ascertain: to sound a person's views.
  5. to seek to elicit the views or sentiments of (a person) by indirect inquiries, suggestive allusions, etc. (often followed by out): Why not sound him out about working for us?
  6. Surgery. to examine, as the urinary bladder, with a sound.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to use the lead and line or some other device for measuring depth, as at sea.
  2. to go down or touch bottom, as a lead.
  3. to plunge downward or dive, as a whale.
  4. to make investigation; seek information, especially by indirect inquiries.
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  1. Surgery. a long, slender instrument for sounding or exploring body cavities or canals.
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Origin of sound3

1300–50; Middle English sounden < Old French sonder to plumb, derivative of sonde sounding line < ?
Related formssound·a·ble, adjective


  1. a relatively narrow passage of water between larger bodies of water or between the mainland and an island: Long Island Sound.
  2. an inlet, arm, or recessed portion of the sea: Puget Sound.
  3. the air bladder of a fish.
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Origin of sound4

before 900; Middle English; Old English sund act of swimming; akin to swim


  1. The, a strait between SW Sweden and Zealand, connecting the Kattegat and the Baltic. 87 miles (140 km) long; 3–30 miles (5–48 km) wide.
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Danish Ø·re·sund [Danish œ-ruh-soo n] /Danish ˈœ rəˌsʊn/.Swedish Ö·re·sund [Swedish œ-ruh-soo nd] /Swedish ˈœ rəˌsʊnd/.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

vigorous, sturdy, solid, vibrant, safe, thorough, flawless, sane, stable, robust, intact, precise, sensible, satisfactory, wise, fair, reliable, responsible, valid, rational

Examples from the Web for sound

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Eudora, what is it within us, that listens where there is no sound?


    Lydia Maria Child

  • "Oh, blessed be the sound of your voice," replied the peasant.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • The sound disturbed him, bringing premonitions of the city's unrest.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • But the sound came nearer, and he distinctly heard "Robert!"

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • It means the "science of the sound which is made by our speech."

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

British Dictionary definitions for sound


    1. a periodic disturbance in the pressure or density of a fluid or in the elastic strain of a solid, produced by a vibrating object. It has a velocity in air at sea level at 0°C of 331 metres per second (741 miles per hour) and travels as longitudinal waves
    2. (as modifier)a sound wave
  1. (modifier) of or relating to radio as distinguished from televisionsound broadcasting; sound radio
  2. the sensation produced by such a periodic disturbance in the organs of hearing
  3. anything that can be heard
  4. a particular instance, quality, or type of soundthe sound of running water
  5. volume or quality of sounda radio with poor sound
  6. the area or distance over which something can be heardto be born within the sound of Big Ben
  7. the impression or implication of somethingI don't like the sound of that
  8. phonetics the auditory effect produced by a specific articulation or set of related articulations
  9. (often plural) slang music, esp rock, jazz, or pop
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  1. to cause (something, such as an instrument) to make a sound or (of an instrument, etc) to emit a sound
  2. to announce or be announced by a soundto sound the alarm
  3. (intr) (of a sound) to be heard
  4. (intr) to resonate with a certain quality or intensityto sound loud
  5. (copula) to give the impression of being as specified when read, heard, etcto sound reasonable
  6. (tr) to pronounce distinctly or audiblyto sound one's consonants
  7. (intr usually foll by in) law to have the essential quality or nature (of)an action sounding in damages
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See also sound off
Derived Formssoundable, adjective

Word Origin

C13: from Old French soner to make a sound, from Latin sonāre, from sonus a sound


  1. free from damage, injury, decay, etc
  2. firm; solid; substantiala sound basis
  3. financially safe or stablea sound investment
  4. showing good judgment or reasoning; sensible; wisesound advice
  5. valid, logical, or justifiablea sound argument
  6. holding approved beliefs; ethically correct; upright; honest
  7. (of sleep) deep; peaceful; unbroken
  8. thorough; completea sound examination
  9. British informal excellent
  10. law (of a title, etc) free from defect; legally valid
  11. constituting a valid and justifiable application of correct principles; orthodoxsound theology
  12. logic
    1. (of a deductive argument) valid
    2. (of an inductive argument) according with whatever principles ensure the high probability of the truth of the conclusion given the truth of the premises
    3. another word for consistent (def. 5b)
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  1. soundly; deeply: now archaic except when applied to sleep
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Derived Formssoundly, adverbsoundness, noun

Word Origin

Old English sund; related to Old Saxon gisund, Old High German gisunt


  1. to measure the depth of (a well, the sea, etc) by lowering a plumb line, by sonar, etc
  2. to seek to discover (someone's views, etc), as by questioning
  3. (intr) (of a whale, etc) to dive downwards swiftly and deeply
  4. med
    1. to probe or explore (a bodily cavity or passage) by means of a sound
    2. to examine (a patient) by means of percussion and auscultation
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  1. med an instrument for insertion into a bodily cavity or passage to dilate strictures, dislodge foreign material, etc
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See also sound out

Word Origin

C14: from Old French sonder, from sonde sounding line, probably of Germanic origin; related to Old English sundgyrd sounding pole, Old Norse sund strait, sound 4; see swim


  1. a relatively narrow channel between two larger areas of sea or between an island and the mainland
  2. an inlet or deep bay of the sea
  3. the air bladder of a fish
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Word Origin

Old English sund swimming, narrow sea; related to Middle Low German sunt strait; see sound ³


  1. the Sound a strait between SW Sweden and Zealand (Denmark), linking the Kattegat with the Baltic: busy shipping lane; spanned by a bridge in 2000. Length of the strait: 113 km (70 miles). Narrowest point: 5 km (3 miles)Danish name: Øresund Swedish name: Öresund
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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 sound


"noise, what is heard, sensation produced through the ear," late 13c., soun, from Old French son "sound, musical note, voice," from Latin sonus "sound, a noise," from PIE *swon-o-, from root *swen- "to sound" (cf. Sanskrit svanati "it sounds," svanah "sound, tone;" Latin sonare "to sound;" Old Irish senim "the playing of an instrument;" Old English geswin "music, song," swinsian "to sing;" Old Norse svanr, Old English swan "swan," properly "the sounding bird").

The terminal -d was established c.1350-1550 as part of a tendency to add -d- after -n-. First record of sound barrier is from 1939. Sound check is from 1977; sound effects is 1909, originally live accompaniments to silent films.

The experts of Victor ... will ... arrange for the synchronized orchestration and sound effects for this picture, in which airplane battles will have an important part. ["Exhibitor's Herald & Moving Picture World," April 28, 1928]
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"free from special defect or injury," c.1200, from Old English gesund "sound, safe, having the organs and faculties complete and in perfect action," from Proto-Germanic *sunda-, from Germanic root *swen-to- "healthy, strong" (cf. Old Saxon gisund, Old Frisian sund, Dutch gezond, Old High German gisunt, German gesund "healthy," as in the post-sneezing interjection gesundheit; also Old English swið "strong," Gothic swinþs "strong," German geschwind "fast, quick"), with connections in Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic. Meaning "right, correct, free from error" is from mid-15c. Meaning "financially solid or safe" is attested from c.1600; of sleep, "undisturbed," from 1540s. Sense of "holding accepted opinions" is from 1520s.

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"fathom, probe, measure the depth of," mid-14c. (implied in sounding), from Old French sonder, from sonde "sounding line," perhaps from the same Germanic source that yielded Old English sund "water, sea" (see sound (n.2)). Barnhart dismisses the old theory that it is from Latin subundare. Figurative use from 1570s.

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"narrow channel of water," c.1300, from Old Norse sund "a strait, swimming," or from cognate Old English sund "act of swimming, stretch of water one can swim across, a strait of the sea," both from Proto-Germanic *sundam-, from *swum-to-, suffixed form of Germanic root *swem- "to move, stir, swim" (see swim (v.)).

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early 13c., sounen "to be audible, produce vibrations affecting the ear," from Old French soner (Modern French sonner) and directly from Latin sonare "to sound" (see sonata). From late 14c. as "cause something (an instrument, etc.) to produce sound." Related: Sounded; sounding.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sound in Science


  1. A type of longitudinal wave that originates as the vibration of a medium (such as a person's vocal cords or a guitar string) and travels through gases, liquids, and elastic solids as variations of pressure and density. The loudness of a sound perceived by the ear depends on the amplitude of the sound wave and is measured in decibels, while its pitch depends on its frequency, measured in hertz.
  2. The sensation produced in the organs of hearing by waves of this type. See Note at ultrasound.
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  1. A long, wide inlet of the ocean, often parallel to the coast. Long Island Sound, between Long Island and the coast of New England, is an example.
  2. A long body of water, wider than a strait, that connects larger bodies of water.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with sound


In addition to the idioms beginning with sound

  • sound as a bell
  • sound bite
  • sound off
  • sound out

also see:

  • safe and sound
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.