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[def] /dɛf/
adjective, deafer, deafest.
partially or wholly lacking or deprived of the sense of hearing; unable to hear.
refusing to listen, heed, or be persuaded; unreasonable or unyielding:
deaf to all advice.
(initial capital letter) of or relating to the Deaf or their cultural community:
Deaf customs and values.
noun, (used with a plural verb)
deaf persons collectively (usually preceded by the):
social services for the deaf.
(initial capital letter) deaf persons who identify themselves as members of a community composed of deaf persons and others who share in their culture (usually preceded by the).
before 900; Middle English deef, Old English dēaf; cognate with Middle Low German dōf, Dutch doof, Old High German toub
Related forms
deafly, adverb
deafness, noun
half-deaf, adjective
nondeaf, adjective
nondeafly, adverb
nondeafness, noun
quasi-deaf, adjective
quasi-deafly, adverb
semideaf, adjective
semideafness, noun
undeaf, adjective
Usage note
See dumb.
Pronunciation note
Deaf is usually pronounced
[def] /dɛf/ (Show IPA)
with the vowel of left. In uneducated speech the dialectal pronunciation
[deef] /dif/
to rhyme with leaf, is still heard occasionally, but it is increasingly rare. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for deaf
  • But it's not strictly necessary: deaf people manage to cross streets without benefit of hearing the traffic.
  • Auditorium lights could broadcast enhanced audio to the hearing disabled, or transcriptions to the deaf.
  • Closed captioning for deaf users was not properly supported.
  • Everyone pretends to be in favour of bipartisan dialogue, but it is a dialogue of the deaf.
  • Some deaf people have extraordinarily keen vision, and a new study of cats may explain why.
  • There is only one public school in the world where deaf children are taught to swim.
  • They will doubtless suggest the sign language of the deaf.
  • Explain that there is more than one of these languages for the deaf.
  • It is then that they realize how deaf people must feel when they are among those who hear.
  • The real problem is that medical community is blind and deaf to the frequency of falls and injuries.
British Dictionary definitions for deaf


  1. partially or totally unable to hear
  2. (as collective noun; preceded by the): the deaf See also tone-deaf
refusing to heed: deaf to the cries of the hungry
Derived Forms
deafly, adverb
deafness, noun
Word Origin
Old English dēaf; related to Old Norse daufr
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
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Word Origin and History for deaf

Old English deaf "deaf," also "empty, barren," specialized from Proto-Germanic *daubaz (cf. Old Saxon dof, Old Norse daufr, Old Frisian daf, Dutch doof "deaf," German taub, Gothic daufs "deaf, insensate"), from PIE dheubh-, which was used to form words meaning "confusion, stupefaction, dizziness" (cf. Greek typhlos "blind).

The word was pronounced to rhyme with reef until 18c. Deaf-mute is from 1837, after French sourd-muet. Deaf-mutes were sought after in 18c.-19c. Britain as fortune-tellers. Deaf as an adder (Old English) is from Psalms lviii:5.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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deaf in Medicine

deaf (děf)

  1. Partially or completely lacking in the sense of hearing.

  2. Deaf Of or relating to the Deaf or their culture.

  1. Deaf people considered as a group.

  2. Deaf The community of deaf people who use American Sign Language as a primary means of communication.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for deaf



Excellent; wonderful; cool, rad: She is really def/ He's got a def girlfriend

[1983+ Black; origin uncertain; perhaps fr black English (Jamaican) pronunciation of death, where the semantics would resemble those of killer, murder, etc; certainly interpreted by many as a shortening of definite]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with deaf


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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