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[nuhm] /nʌm/
adjective, number, numbest.
deprived of physical sensation or the ability to move:
fingers numb with cold.
manifesting or resembling numbness:
a numb sensation.
incapable of action or of feeling emotion; enervated; prostrate:
numb with grief.
lacking or deficient in emotion or feeling; indifferent:
She was numb to their pleas for mercy.
verb (used with object)
to make numb.
Origin of numb
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English nome literally, taken, seized, variant of nomen, numen, Old English numen, past participle of niman to take, nim1
Related forms
numbly, adverb
numbness, noun
half-numb, adjective
unnumbed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for numbness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It took me a few minutes to work the numbness out of my legs.

    Tramping on Life Harry Kemp
  • "It's there you are a fool," she said, moved actually now by his numbness to his own endowment.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
  • Or perhaps from numbness he slipped into a kind of deep sleep.

    David and the Phoenix Edward Ormondroyd
  • He was waiting until the first numbness of the shock had passed.

    The Grell Mystery Frank Froest
  • The numbness is not of the skin, but of the brain, for the drunken man may be frozen or burned to death without pain.

    A Practical Physiology Albert F. Blaisdell
  • The numbness of that dead youth was still oppressing her heart and brain.

    How It All Came Round L. T. Meade
British Dictionary definitions for numbness


deprived of feeling through cold, shock, etc
unable to move; paralysed
characteristic of or resembling numbness: a numb sensation
verb (transitive)
to make numb; deaden, shock, or paralyse
Derived Forms
numbly, adverb
numbness, noun
Word Origin
C15: nomen, literally: taken (with paralysis), from Old English niman to take; related to Old Norse nema, Old High German niman
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 numbness

1570s, from numb (adj.) + -ness.



c.1400, nome, "deprived of motion or feeling," literally "taken, seized," from past participle of nimen "to take, seize," from Old English niman "to take, catch, grasp" (see nimble). The extraneous -b (to conform to comb, limb, etc.) appeared 17c. The notion is of being "taken" with palsy, shock, and especially cold. Figurative use from 1560s.


1550s, from numb (adj.). Related: Numbed; numbing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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numbness in Medicine

numb (nŭm)

  1. Being unable or only partially able to feel sensation or pain; deadened or anesthetized.

  2. Being emotionally unresponsive; indifferent.

v. numbed, numb·ing, numbs
To make or become numb.
numb'ness n.
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 numbness



Stupid; unresponsive (1950s+)

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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