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[duhm] /dʌm/
adjective, dumber, dumbest.
lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.
lacking the power of speech (offensive when applied to humans):
a dumb animal.
temporarily unable to speak:
dumb with astonishment.
refraining from any or much speech; silent.
made, done, etc., without speech.
lacking some usual property, characteristic, etc.
performed in pantomime; mimed.
Computers. pertaining to the inability to do processing locally:
A dumb terminal can input, output, and display data, but cannot process it.
Compare intelligent (def 4).
  1. (of a barge) without means of propulsion.
  2. (of any craft) without means of propulsion, steering, or signaling.
Verb phrases
dumb down, Informal. to make or become less intellectual, simpler, or less sophisticated:
to dumb down a textbook; American movies have dumbed down.
Origin of dumb
before 1000; Old English; cognate with Old Norse dumbr, Gothic dumbs, Old Saxon dumb, Old High German tump, German dumm
Related forms
dumbly, adverb
dumbness, noun
quasi-dumb, adjective
quasi-dumbly, adverb
Usage note
Dumb in the sense “lacking the power of speech” is perceived as insulting when describing humans (but not animals), probably because dumb also means “stupid; dull-witted.” The noun dummy in the sense “person who lacks the power of speech” is also perceived as insulting, as are the terms deaf-and-dumb, deaf-mute, and mute. The adjective hearing-impaired is acceptable though not the term of choice, partly because it lacks directness. The preferred term is deaf, which makes no reference to an inability to speak or communicate; the capitalized Deaf signals membership in this community. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for dumbly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She looked away, staring steadily, dumbly, at something that she saw.

    The Creators May Sinclair
  • dumbly she caught her breath, waiting for the bawling out she'd earned.

  • dumbly, he was conscious of the truth of Judy's words,—that the book was no longer his.

    The Re-Creation of Brian Kent Harold Bell Wright
  • The old man, leathery-faced, with a fine yellow moustache, looked at him dumbly.

    Dream Town Henry Slesar
  • Her feet were nearly frozen but she gathered them under her skirt and dumbly waited.

    Tess of the Storm Country Grace Miller White
  • She started for the door while the girls watched her dumbly, not knowing what to do or say.

  • She became conscious that she had been sitting there dumbly for many minutes; she roused herself with an effort.

    A Bachelor Husband Ruby M. Ayres
  • He stared wide-eyed at Mr. Perkins, questioning him dumbly, pathetically.

    The Rich Little Poor Boy Eleanor Gates
  • Sometimes she rose out of restlessness, and moved about the room, and the dog's eyes would follow her, dumbly dependent.

    The Testing of Diana Mallory Mrs. Humphry Ward
British Dictionary definitions for dumbly


lacking the power to speak, either because of defects in the vocal organs or because of hereditary deafness
lacking the power of human speech: dumb animals
temporarily lacking or bereft of the power to speak: struck dumb
refraining from speech; uncommunicative
producing no sound; silent: a dumb piano
made, done, or performed without speech
  1. slow to understand; dim-witted
  2. foolish; stupid See also dumb down
(of a projectile or bomb) not guided to its target
Derived Forms
dumbly, adverb
dumbness, noun
Word Origin
Old English; related to Old Norse dumbr, Gothic dumbs, Old High German tump
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 dumbly



Old English dumb "silent, unable to speak," from PIE *dheubh- "confusion, stupefaction, dizziness," from root *dheu- (1) "dust, mist, vapor, smoke," and related notions of "defective perception or wits."

The Old English, Old Saxon (dumb), Gothic (dumbs), and Old Norse (dumbr) forms of the word meant only "mute, speechless;" in Old High German (thumb) it meant both this and "stupid," and in Modern German this latter became the only sense. Meaning "foolish, ignorant" was occasionally in Middle English, but modern use (1823) comes from influence of German dumm. Related: dumber; dumbest.

Applied to silent contrivances, hence dumbwaiter. As a verb, in late Old English, "to become mute;" c.1600, "to make mute." To dumb (something) down is from 1933.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for dumbly



Stupid; mentally sluggish; dim: You think I'm pretty dumb, don't you? (1823+)


damn, darn (1787+)

[fr Pennsylvania German dumm]

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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dumbly in the Bible

from natural infirmity (Ex. 4:11); not knowing what to say (Prov. 31:8); unwillingness to speak (Ps. 39:9; Lev. 10:3). Christ repeatedly restored the dumb (Matt. 9:32, 33; Luke 11:14; Matt. 12:22) to the use of speech.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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