Definitions

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

  • adj. Marked by absence of noise or sound; still.
  • adj. Not inclined to speak; not talkative.
  • adj. Unable to speak.
  • adj. Refraining from speech: Do be silent.
  • adj. Not voiced or expressed; unspoken: a silent curse; silent consent.
  • adj. Inactive; quiescent: a silent volcano.
  • adj. Linguistics Having no phonetic value; unpronounced: the silent b in subtle.
  • adj. Having no spoken dialogue and usually no soundtrack. Used of a film.
  • adj. Producing no detectable signs or symptoms: a silent heart attack.
  • n. A silent movie.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Free from sound or noise; absolutely still; perfectly quiet.
  • adj. Not speaking; indisposed to talk; speechless; mute; taciturn; not loquacious; not talkative.
  • adj. Keeping at rest; inactive; calm; undisturbed; as, the wind is silent. Parnell. Sir W. Raleigh.
  • adj. Not pronounced; having no sound; quiescent; as, "e is silent in fable."
  • adj. Having no effect; not operating; inefficient.
  • adj. Without audio capability.
  • adj. Hidden, unseen, as a silent voter or silent partner.
  • n. That which is silent; a time of silence.
  • n. A silent movie

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Free from sound or noise; absolutely still; perfectly quiet.
  • adj. Not speaking; indisposed to talk; speechless; mute; taciturn; not loquacious; not talkative.
  • adj. Keeping at rest; inactive; calm; undisturbed.
  • adj. Not pronounced; having no sound; quiescent
  • adj. Having no effect; not operating; inefficient.
  • n. That which is silent; a time of silence.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Not speaking, or making a noise with the voice; withholding or restraining vocal sounds; mute; dumb; speechless: as, a silent spectator; silent watchers.
  • In a restricted use, not given to speaking; using; few words; not loquacious.
  • Not speaking about some specified thing; withholding mention or statement; saying nothing; uncommunicative.
  • Lacking authority or ability to speak, as about something of personal concern; not having a voice; disqualified for speech: as, a silent partner in a firm (see partner); the silent part of creation.
  • Not uttered or expressed with the voice; unmarked by utterance or demonstrative speech; unspoken; unsounded: as, silent agony or endurance; silent opposition; a silent letter (see below).
  • Free from or unattended by noise or sound; marked by stillness; quiet: as, silent woods; a silent assembly.
  • Synonyms and Silent, Taciturn, Dumb, Mute. Silent expresses the fact of not speaking, taciturn the habitual disposition to refrain from speaking. Dumb strictly implies lack of the organs of speech, or defect in them, or lack of the power of speaking, while mute implies some special cause: hence deaf-mute is thought by many a better name than deaf-and-dumb person for one who does not speak on account of deafness; an idol is dumb, not mute. Under figurative extension mute, dumb, and silent are often used outside of the lines here indicated. In such freer use there is an advance in strength from silent, to mute and from mute to dumb: as, silent from abstraction; mute with astonishment; struck dumb with horror.
  • n. A silent period.
  • n. A short-circuit switch attached to an electric alarm, which when closed prevents the alarm from acting.

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

  • adj. not made to sound
  • adj. unable to speak because of hereditary deafness
  • adj. failing to speak or communicate etc when expected to
  • adj. implied by or inferred from actions or statements
  • adj. having a frequency below or above the range of human audibility
  • adj. marked by absence of sound

Etymologies

Latin silēns, silent-, present participle of silēre, to be silent.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin silēnt-, silēns ("silent"), present participle of sileō ("be silent"), from Proto-Indo-European *seil- (“still, windless, quiet, slow”). Cognate with Gothic 𐌰𐌽𐌰𐍃𐌹𐌻𐌰𐌽 (anasilan, "to cease, grow still, be silent"), Old English sālnes ("silence"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Sometimes, to remain silent is to lie, since silence can be interpreted as assent.

    Archive 2009-03-01

  • The term silent evidence comes from a book I am currently enjoying, entitled "Fooled by Randomness" by a former securities trader named Nassim Taleb. which I have mentioned before.

    "The silent evidence"-unpublished "negative trials"

  • But alone among the major parties here, the Salafi candidates have embraced the powerful strain of populism that helped rally the public against the crony capitalism of the Mubarak era and seems at times to echo - like the phrase "silent majority" - right-wing movements in the United States and Europe.

    NYT > Home Page

  • Just remember that the term silent migraine or acephalgic migraine is used to describe a migraine that does not have the headache pain.

    BellaOnline - The Voice of Women

  • With his freedom of movement severely curtailed he is not allowed to go for a walk even with bodyguards he embarked on what he calls a silent one to one combat.

    Saviano's Hell on Earth

  • The cultural anthropologist Edward T Hall, who was in that circle, and studied what he called the silent languages of time and space, once pointed out to me that our most significant, most critical inventions were not those ever considered to be inventions, but those that appeared to be innate and natural.

    John Brockman: the man who runs the world's smartest website

  • At one point, what we call the silent majority came to be aligned with the street protests at least from a humanitarian and moral point of view.

    Syrian Activists Say Assad Gains Advantage

  • Protesters chaining themselves to the White House gate on Monday, objecting to what they called the silent homophobia of those who purport to be our friends and do nothing, capped a tumultuous few days in the fight to repeal

    Arianna Huffington: The Split-Screen Struggle Over Gay Rights

  • This naming issue is worth enormously more to the demonstrators and Mr. Tong than it does to me, so much more that even if I am in what you call the silent majority, it still makes more sense for you, from the utilitarian perspective, to give Mr. Tong and the demonstrators what they want.

    San Jose City Council Should Back Down to Save a Life

  • Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced plans to develop a uniform formula to shed light on what she calls a silent epidemic.

    CNN Transcript Apr 5, 2008

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