Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The condition or quality of being or keeping still and silent.
  • n. The absence of sound; stillness.
  • n. A period of time without speech or noise.
  • n. Refusal or failure to speak out.
  • transitive v. To make silent or bring to silence: silenced the crowd with a gesture.
  • transitive v. To curtail the expression of; suppress: silencing all criticism; silenced their opponents.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The lack of any sound.
  • n. Form of meditative worship practiced by the Society of Friends (Quakers); meeting for worship.
  • n. The action of refraining from speaking.
  • v. To make (someone or something) silent.
  • v. To suppress criticism, etc.
  • v. To block gene expression.
  • interj. be quiet

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The state of being silent; entire absence of sound or noise; absolute stillness.
  • n. Forbearance from, or absence of, speech; taciturnity; muteness.
  • n. Secrecy.
  • n. The cessation of rage, agitation, or tumilt; calmness; quiest.
  • n. Absence of mention; oblivion.
  • interj. Be silent; -- used elliptically for let there be silence, or keep silence.
  • transitive v. To compel to silence; to cause to be still; to still; to hush.
  • transitive v. To put to rest; to quiet.
  • transitive v. To restrain from the exercise of any function, privilege of instruction, or the like, especially from the act of preaching.
  • transitive v. To cause to cease firing, as by a vigorous cannonade.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cause to be or keep silent; put or bring to silence; restrain from speech or noise; stop the noise of: as, to silence a battery or a gun-boat.
  • To restrain from speech about something; cause or induce to be silent on a particular subject or class of subjects; make silent or speechless, as by restraint of privilege or license, or by unanswerable argument.
  • Hence To make quiescent; put at rest or into abeyance; stop the activity of: as, to silence one's conscience.
  • n. The state of being or keeping silent; forbearance or restraint of sound; abstinence from speech or other noise; muteness; reticence: as, to listen in silence; the chairman rapped for silence.
  • n. Absence of sound or noise; general stillness within the range or the power of hearing: as, the silence of midnight; the silence of the tomb.
  • n. Absence of mention: as, the silence of Scripture (on a particular subject); oblivion; obscurity.
  • n. In distilled spirits, want of flavor and odor; flatness; deadness. See silent spirit, under silent.
  • n. In music, same as rest, 8.
  • n. Synonyms See silent.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. cause to be quiet or not talk
  • n. the state of being silent (as when no one is speaking)
  • n. the trait of keeping things secret
  • n. a refusal to speak when expected
  • n. the absence of sound
  • v. keep from expression, for example by threats or pressure

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin silentium, from silēns, silent-, present participle of silēre, to be silent.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French silence. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Now, of these four modes of misleading others by the tongue, when there is a _justa causa_ (supposing there can be such) -- a material lie, that is an untruth which is not a lie, an equivocation, an evasion, and silence, -- First, I have no difficulty whatever in recognizing as allowable the method of _silence_.

    Apologia pro Vita Sua

  • “The most likely outcome of this silence is a raise,” Chapman writes.

    Negotiate Your Salary More Effectively | Lifehacker Australia

  • To this day, when a glass drops, she's reflexively brought back to what she describes as a "silence of death all around."

    Shira Hirschman Weiss: How One Survivor Of Terrorism Is Giving Back

  • Whatever the cause might be of the diffidence Mr. Harris sees in the approach of scientists to issues of value and morality, their silence is the sine qua non of arguments like his.

    What Unitarians Know (and Sam Harris Doesn't)

  • You have to look at yourself naked in silence, which is why television, radio, and any other distractions are so popular with society.

    June 2009

  • I think their silence is an example of good old Canadian patriotism.

    Allright, I’m Sensing A Theme Here… « Unambiguously Ambidextrous

  • Margaret's goal was always to get away from the crowds and experience what she referred to as the silence of the woods.

    Archive 2009-10-01

  • Of course, you can't win, because if you say nothing, your silence is also understood to be an admission of guilt.

    Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

  • IFILL: Well I think that's what we're really seeing from this and I hope we don't miss this opportunity to break what I call the silence that surrounds this history.

    CNN Transcript Oct 6, 2007

  • A murder of crows looks on in silence from the eucalyptus trees above as we stand over the bodies — who look as if they might roll over, wake from a dream and question us about the blood drying on their scalps, the bullets lodged in the back of their skulls, to ask where their wives and children are this morning, and why this hovering of flies, the taste of flatbread and chai gone from their mouths as they stretch and rise, wondering who these strangers are who would kick their hard feet, saying

    February « 2010 « poetry dispatch & other notes from the underground

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Comments

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  • Szymborska!

    April 29, 2011

  • April 29, 2011

  • like anything else, the value of silence depends on the circumstances.

    April 29, 2011

  • bilby -- HAR!

    November 30, 2009

  • Practiced for hours, I did.

    November 28, 2009

  • It's music to my ears.

    November 28, 2009

  • Ooh, bilby, what a nice pronunciation! You enunciate this word perfectly.

    November 28, 2009

  • "Am I afraid of silence? I wouldn't ask, except I never seem to allow it. I watch tv, listen to music, radio, podcasts, if I'm with friends talk to them, and sometimes when I'm alone I talk to myself. The only time I consistently ever allow quiet is before drifting off to sleep (see dreams). Perhaps it is telling that I can accept no aural stimulus if I am deeply ingrained in reading a novel or solving a math problem. It could be that by listening to one thing while doing another prevents me from the exertion of concentrating full brain power on a given task. Have I been handicapping myself this whole time? If I put cotton balls in my ears would I be some great genius? Or am I fooling myself, am I nothing more than what I am? Does music provide a soundtrack to my life, neither improving nor harming my capabilities, just heightening my experiences?" -- excerpt from the autobiography of Seanahan

    April 23, 2009

  • It reminds me a beautiful book "iRead", The seventh son by Orson Scott Card. The boy has a gift for creating, but there is something (hard to define) against him, that they call the Unmaker.
    Look, I'm talking about books!

    June 13, 2008

  • "When I pronounce the word Future,
    the first syllable already belongs to the past.
    When I pronounce the word Silence,
    I destroy it.
    When I pronounce the word Nothing,
    I make something no non-being can hold."
    - Wislawa Szymborska, 'The Three Oddest Words', translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh.

    June 13, 2008

  • "'There are two types of silence,' said Kasper, 'or at least that's how it has sounded to me. There is the high silence, the silence behind prayer. The silence when one is close to the Divine. The silence that is the dense, unborn presence of all sounds. And then there is the other silence. Hopelessly far from God. And from other people. The silence of absence. The silence of loneliness.'
    He felt the young man's openness. There was contact. Interference. They were close to each other.
    'I know them,' said Franz Fieber. 'The two kinds of silence. I know them both.'
    'Those two people I sat across from, they were acoustically dead,' said Kasper. 'Something had gone out of them.'"
    - 'The Quiet Girl', Peter Høeg.

    March 19, 2008