from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Acoustical or electrical noise of which the intensity is the same at all frequencies within a given band over time.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun a mixture or random noise sounds extending over the entire audible frequency spectrum with approximately equal intensity at all frequencies. It is used in certain experiments, as in psychology, to prevent subjects from hearing meaningful sounds.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun physics A random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density; a signal with a power spectral density that has equal power in any band, at any centre frequency, having a given bandwidth.
  • noun nontechnically Any nondescript noise used for background or to mask or drown out other noise.

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

  • noun a noise produced by a stimulus containing all of the audible frequencies of vibration


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

[From the analogy with white light.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word white noise.


    Sorry, no example sentences found.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "White noise is restful, and even more importantly, it means that I won’t be woken up with every little thump that the house makes. A fan is ideal because it does double duty of providing consistent soft background noise as well as keeping my room cool. White noise machines are also available. I got one from xxxxxxx for about $20 that allows you to pick from sounds such as rain, babbling brook, and or a train (no whistles, just the wheels on the track)."

    - Stephanie, '11 Unconventional Sleep Tips: How to Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep',, cited 2 Dec 2008.

    December 2, 2008

  • "White Noise" is also the name of a critically acclaimed, abysmal, piece of pomo rubbish by American "author" Don DeLillo:

    Naked Emperor

    December 2, 2008

  • What's pomo? WordNet gives me: a member of an Indian people of northern California living along the Russian River valley and adjacent Pacific coast.

    December 2, 2008

  • postmodern

    December 2, 2008

  • I love that novel! And though its theme may be postmodernity, I don't think it's particularly postmodern.

    December 3, 2008

  • White noise machines are useful for both therapists or lawyers to keep voices in an office muffled to outsiders, protecting privacy.

    December 3, 2008

  • Oh yarb!! We shall have to agree to disagree. I don't think it's particularly postmodern either - just atrociously written, pretentious, claptrap.

    "Your wife has important hair".

    American Express. Kleenex. Preparation H.

    The department of Hitler studies???? Gimme a break!

    Beat us over the head with that sledgehammer again, Mr DeLillo, because we're too stupid to appreciate anything other than the most slapstick, cartoonish, 'satire'. We've been rendered stupid by reading your lame-assed prose and your inconceivably atrocious "dialog", conducted between your ridiculously implausible "characters". And, by the way, sitting in your stationwagon with the windows rolled up isn't really going to save you from a toxic gas plume.

    Starbucks. Victoria's Secret. Drano.

    December 3, 2008

  • I thought the Dept of Hitler Studies an apt embodiment of the postmodern malaise - the banal recursions, self-reflexiveness and trend to analysis rather than synthesis to which Western culture, along with it attendant academic 'cultural studies', has been subject since at least the 1970's. There really are people, even now, who say things like "your wife has important hair" straight-facedly. White Noise is more caricature than satire, and while necessarily exaggerated, I think it's pretty accurate, and funny in spite of the easiness of the target.

    DeLillo's dialogue is distinctive and while it doesn't always work - sometimes he goes too far - it at least attempts to capture the disjointedness of most of our colloquies. Most people simply don't talk like they do in literature, certainly not in their distracted everyday interactions; much of what we say doesn't make sense when transcribed.

    And amidst all the nonsensical chuntering - the white noise - of the characters and their environment, stalks the old ineluctible, merrily scything away at the manufactured realities of the protagonists. I can't think of a novel which handles Death so deftly.

    December 3, 2008

  • Well, I'm probably never going to like "White Noise". But I should give DeLillo another chance. Is there any of his other works that you would recommend as being particularly good?

    December 3, 2008

  • I quite liked "White Noise"--I thought it was taking the piss out of postmodernism more than anything else.

    But I really loved Underworld. Not right off the bat--took a hundred pages or so before I was in its thrall--but by the end I was floored. It's up there with American Pastoral as one of my favorite books about America.

    December 3, 2008

  • I loved Underworld, too, though the ending is an embarrassing mess of starry-eyed techno-wank, much like the abject follow-up Cosmopolis. But it's a big commitment. I haven't read anything else by the man, but I get the feeling he's infuriatingly inconsistent.

    December 3, 2008

  • I remember liking End Zone back in the early seventies, but then it was the early seventies. I supposed Logos College was a bit obvious, now that I think about it.

    December 3, 2008

  • John, I felt the same way about Underworld--at least the part about having to slog through the first 100 pages until the pace picked up. I can't say it's one of my favorites, but it was definitely a worthy read.

    December 3, 2008

  • I thought the first 100 pages of Underworld were the best (and I don't even like baseball).

    December 4, 2008