From Middle English dull, dul (also dyll, dill, dwal), from Old English dol (“dull, foolish, erring, heretical; foolish, silly; presumptuous”), from Proto-Germanic *dulaz, a variant of *dwalaz (“stunned, mad, foolish, misled”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰwel-, *dʰewel- (“to dim, dull, cloud, make obscure, swirl, whirl”). Cognate with Scots dull, doll (“slow to understand or hear, deaf, dull”), North Frisian dol (“rash, unthinking, giddy, flippant”), Dutch dol (“crazy, mad, insane”), Low German dul, dol (“mad, silly, stupid, fatuous”), German toll (“crazy, mad, wild, fantastic”), Danish dval (“foolish, absurd”), Icelandic dulur (“secretive, silent”), West-Flemish dul (angry, furious).
dull (comparative duller, superlative dullest)
- Lacking the ability to cut easily; not sharp.
All these knives are dull.
- Boring; not exciting or interesting.
He sat through the dull lecture and barely stayed awake.
- 1895, S. R. Crockett, A Cry Across the Black Water
- "You are very dull this morning, Sheriff," said the youngest daughter of the house, who, being the baby and pretty, had grown pettishly privileged in speech.
- Not shiny; having a matte finish or no particular luster or brightness.
Choose a dull finish to hide fingerprints.
- a dull fire or lamp; a dull red or yellow; a dull mirror
1913, Mrs. [Marie] Belloc Lowndes, chapter I, in The Lodger, London: Methuen, OCLC 7780546; republished in Novels of Mystery: The Lodger; The Story of Ivy; What Really Happened, New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co., […], , OCLC 2666860, page 0016:
- A great bargain also had been the excellent Axminster carpet which covered the floor; as, again, the arm-chair in which Bunting now sat forward, staring into the dull, small fire.
- Not bright or intelligent; stupid; having slow understanding.
c. 1596–1598, William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene ii]:
She is not bred so dull but she can learn.
1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 15, in The China Governess:
She paused and took a defiant breath. ‘If you don't believe me, I can't help it. But I'm not a liar.’ ¶ ‘No,’ said Luke, grinning at her. ‘You're not dull enough! […] What about the kid's clothes? I don't suppose they were anything to write home about, but didn't you keep anything? A bootee or a bit of embroidery or anything at all?’
- Sluggish, listless.
1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter VII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071:
[…] St. Bede's at this period of its history was perhaps the poorest and most miserable parish in the East End of London. Close-packed, crushed by the buttressed height of the railway viaduct, rendered airless by huge walls of factories, it at once banished lively interest from a stranger's mind and left only a dull oppression of the spirit.
- Cloudy, overcast.
It's a dull day.
- Insensible; unfeeling.
1616–1619 (first performance), John Fletcher; Philip Massinger; Nathan Field, “The Knight of Malta”, in Comedies and Tragedies […], London: […] Humphrey Robinson, […], and for Humphrey Moseley […], published 1647, OCLC 3083972, Act V, scene ii:
Think me not / So dull a devil to forget the loss / Of such a matchless wife.
- Heavy; lifeless; inert.
c. 1590–1591, William Shakespeare, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene ii]:
the dull earth
- c. 1857', Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Table-Talk
- As turning the logs will make a dull fire burn, so changes of study a dull brain.
- (of pain etc) Not intense; felt indistinctly or only slightly.
Pressing on the bruise produces a dull pain.
- (of a noise or sound) Not clear, muffled.
lacking the ability to cut easily; not sharp
boring, not exciting or interesting — See also translations at boring
- Hebrew: מְשַׁעֲמֵם (meshaámem)
- Italian: noioso (it), soporifero (it), tedioso (it), monotono (it)
- Japanese: 退屈な (ja) (たいくつな, taikutsu na), つまらない (ja) (tsumaranai)
- Luxembourgish: fad, langweileg (lb)
- Maori: mākihakiha, takeo
- Norwegian: kjedelig (no)
- Polish: nudny (pl)
- Portuguese: entediante (pt), chato (pt) m, enfadonho (pt) m, maçante (pt), sem graça
- Romanian: banal (ro), plictisitor (ro)
- Russian: ску́чный (ru) (skúčnyj)
- Slovene: dolgočásen (sl)
- Spanish: aburrido (es), soso (es), insípido (es) m, insulso (es) m, desabrido (es) m, sin gracia
- Swedish: tråkig (sv)
- Turkish: sıkıcı (tr)
not bright or intelligent
- Italian: ottuso (it), tardo (it)
- Japanese: 鈍い (ja) (にぶい, nibui), 鈍い (ja) (のろい, noroi)
- Latin: brūtus, fatuus, idiōta, stultus
- Luxembourgish: domm (lb), topeg
- Maori: mātotoru, rare, pūhoi, pongipongi
- Norwegian: dum (no)
- Polish: tępy (pl)
- Portuguese: estúpido (pt), fátuo (pt), imbecil (pt), idiota (pt)
- Romanian: obtuz (ro)
- Russian: тупо́й (ru) (tupój), глу́пый (ru) (glúpyj)
- Spanish: obtuso (es), corto (es), limitado (es), soso (es)
- Swedish: oskarp (sv), trög (sv)
- Zazaki: nêxapêyen
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Translations to be checked
dull (third-person singular simple present dulls, present participle dulling, simple past and past participle dulled)
- (transitive) To render dull; to remove or blunt an edge or something that was sharp.
- Years of misuse have dulled the tools.
a. 1627 (date written), Francis [Bacon], “Considerations Touching a VVarre vvith Spaine. […]”, in William Rawley, editor, Certaine Miscellany VVorks of the Right Honourable Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount S. Alban. […], London: […] I. Hauiland for Humphrey Robinson, […], published 1629, OCLC 557721855:
This […] dulled their swords.
- (transitive) To soften, moderate or blunt; to make dull, stupid, or sluggish; to stupefy.
- He drinks to dull the pain.
1611 April (first recorded performance), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Cymbeline”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene vi]:
Those [drugs] she has / Will stupefy and dull the sense a while.
- 1850, Richard Chenevix Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord
- Use and custom have so dulled our eyes.
- (intransitive) To lose a sharp edge; to become dull.
- A razor will dull with use.
- To render dim or obscure; to sully; to tarnish.
to soften, moderate or blunt
to render dim or obscure; to sully; to tarnish