Last modified on 3 October 2014, at 04:53

EnglishEdit

PronunciationEdit

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English dumb, from Old English dumb (silent, speechless, mute, unable to speak), from Proto-Germanic *dumbaz (dull, dumb), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- (to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure). Cognate with Scots dumb (dumb, silent), North Frisian dom, domme (dumb, stupid), West Frisian dom (dumb, stupid), Dutch dom (dumb, stupid), German dumm (dumb, stupid), Swedish dum (stupid), Icelandic dumbur (dumb, mute).

In ordinary spoken English, a phrase like "He is dumb" is interpreted as "He is stupid" rather than "He lacks the power of speech". The latter example, however, is the original sense of the word. The senses of stupid, unintellectual, and pointless developed under the influence of the German word dumm.

AdjectiveEdit

dumb (comparative dumber, superlative dumbest)

  1. Unable to speak; lacking power of speech.
    His younger brother was born dumb, and communicated with sign language.
    • Hooker
      to unloose the very tongues even of dumb creatures
  2. Silent; unaccompanied by words.
    dumb show
    • Shakespeare
      This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
    • J. C. Shairp
      to pierce into the dumb past
  3. (informal, pejorative, especially of a person) extremely stupid.
    You are so dumb! You don't even know how to make toast!
  4. (figuratively) Pointless, foolish, lacking intellectual content or value.
    This is dumb! We're driving in circles! We should have asked for directions an hour ago!
    Brendan had the dumb job of moving boxes from one conveyor belt to another.
  5. Lacking brightness or clearness, as a colour.
    • De Foe
      Her stern was painted of a dumb white or dun color.
SynonymsEdit
Derived termsEdit
TranslationsEdit
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Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English dumbien, from Old English dumbian (more commonly in compound ādumbian (to become mute or dumb; keep silence; hold one’s peace)), from Proto-Germanic *dumbijaną, *dumbōną (to be silent, become dumb), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeubʰ- (to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure). Cognate with German dummen (to become dumb).

VerbEdit

dumb (third-person singular simple present dumbs, present participle dumbing, simple past and past participle dumbed)

  1. To silence.
    • 1911, Lindsay Swift, William Lloyd Garrison, p. 272,
      The paralysis of the Northern conscience, the dumbing of the Northern voice, were coming to an end.
  2. (transitive) To make stupid.
    • 2003, Angela Calabrese Barton, Teaching Science for Social Justice, p. 124,
      I think she's dumbing us down, so we won't be smarter than her.
  3. (transitive) To represent as stupid.
    • 2004, Stephen Oppenheimer, The Real Eve: Modern Man's Journey Out of Africa, p. 107,
      Bad-mouthing Neanderthals . . . is symptomatic of a need to exclude and even demonize. . . . I suggest that the unproven dumbing of the Neanderthals is an example of the same cultural preconception.
  4. (transitive) To reduce the intellectual demands of.
    • 2002, Deborah Meier, In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing, p. 126,
      The ensuing storm caused the department to lower the bar—amid protests that this was dumbing the test down—so that only 80 percent of urban kids would fail.
Derived termsEdit