General English

  • adjective unable to speak



  • adjective not able to speak


  • used to describe a wine that is too young or possibly served too cold to show any flavour or bouquet. The term is normally used for red wine that could improve with ageing.

Origin & History of “dumb”

The notion underlying dumb is of ‘sensory or mental impairment’. It goes back to a nasalized version of prehistoric Indo-European *dheubh-, denoting ‘confusion, stupefaction, or dizziness’, which was also the ultimate source of English deaf. this developed two stands of meaning. The first, through association of ‘sensory or mental impairment’ and ‘slow-wittedness’, led to forms such as German dumm and Dutch dom, which mean ‘stupid’ (the use of dumb to mean ‘stupid’ did not develop until the 19th century, in American English, presumably under the influence of the German and Dutch adjectives). The other was semantic specialization to a particular sort of mental impairment, the inability to speak, which produced Gothic dumbs, Old Norse dumbr, and English dumb. (The German word for ‘dumb’, stumm, is related to English stammer and stumble, as are Dutch stom and Swedish stum.)

Dummy (16th c.) is a derivative; it originally meant ‘dumb person’.