decibel

noun
deci·​bel | \ ˈde-sə-ˌbel How to pronounce decibel (audio) , -bəl How to pronounce decibel (audio) \

Definition of decibel

1a : a unit for expressing the ratio of two amounts of electric or acoustic signal power equal to 10 times the common logarithm of this ratio
b : a unit for expressing the ratio of the magnitudes of two electric voltages or currents or analogous acoustic quantities equal to 20 times the common logarithm of the voltage or current ratio
2 : a unit for expressing the relative intensity of sounds on a scale from zero for the average least perceptible sound to about 130 for the average pain level
3 : degree of loudness also : extremely loud sound usually used in plural

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Did You Know?

The unit for measuring the relative intensities of sound is called a decibel. Because the decibel scale is logarithmic, a sound with an intensity that is twice that of a reference sound corresponds to an increase of little more than 3 decibels. In common practice, the reference point of 0 decibel is set at the intensity of the least perceptible sound, the threshold of hearing. On such a scale a 10-decibel sound is 10 times the intensity of the reference sound; a 20-decibel sound is 100 times the reference intensity, and so on. Normal conversation is usually around 60 decibels, an electric saw around 100 decibels, and amplified rock music around 120 decibels.

Examples of decibel in a Sentence

a rock concert blasting music at 110 decibels the crowd decibels increased dramatically as the horses neared the finish line
Recent Examples on the Web Consider these options—each blocks an increasing number of decibels—for everything from flying to wielding power tools. John Kennedy, Popular Science, "Excellent earplugs for everyday situations," 3 Jan. 2020 Republicans skewed toward aggrieved outrage and high-decibel complaint. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "Talking Impeachment to Death," 12 Dec. 2019 The researchers have been testing different materials and designs while trying to find how to muffle high-decibel noise from explosions and gunfire. USA TODAY, "White Sands dust-up, distracted-driving cams, hog rules: News from around our 50 states," 10 Dec. 2019 High-decibel activists on both sides came ready for a fight, wearing helmets, masks and goggles with some clutching Plexiglas shields. Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, "Denver drag show for children endures amid demonstrations," 29 Sep. 2019 Arizona Republican Debbie Lesko was actually one of the first to turn up the volume on what had been to that point — at least in terms of decibels — a relatively quiet proceeding. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "Watching President Donald Trump's impeachment was weird, wild and historic TV," 18 Dec. 2019 Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs help lower decibel levels to a safe range without diluting the overall sound quality. NBC News, "14 of the best Cyber Week deals you can still get," 6 Dec. 2019 Portland has leaf blower regulations that have been in place since 2001 that allow devices not exceeding 65 decibels to be used year-round and ones not louder than 70 decibels to be used from November to February. oregonlive, "Portland plans to get rid of city’s gas-powered leaf blowers starting in 2021," 5 Dec. 2019 The logarithm function is well-known in the non-linear scales for energy released during earthquakes (Richter) or for measuring sound (decibels). Christian Yates, Quartz, "Your dog may be older than you think," 4 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decibel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of decibel

1928, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for decibel

International Scientific Vocabulary deci- + bel

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Time Traveler for decibel

Time Traveler

The first known use of decibel was in 1928

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Statistics for decibel

Last Updated

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Decibel.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/decibel. Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for decibel

decibel

noun
How to pronounce decibel (audio) How to pronounce decibel (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of decibel

technical : a unit for measuring how loud a sound is

decibel

noun
deci·​bel | \ ˈde-sə-ˌbel How to pronounce decibel (audio) , -bəl \

Kids Definition of decibel

: a unit for measuring the loudness of sounds

decibel

noun
deci·​bel | \ ˈdes-ə-bəl How to pronounce decibel (audio) , -ˌbel How to pronounce decibel (audio) \

Medical Definition of decibel

1a : a unit for expressing the ratio of two amounts of electric or acoustic signal power equal to 10 times the common logarithm of this ratio
b : a unit for expressing the ratio of the magnitudes of two electric voltages or currents or analogous acoustic quantities equal to 20 times the common logarithm of the voltage or current ratio
2 : a unit for expressing the relative intensity of sounds on a scale from zero for the average least perceptible sound to about 130 for the average pain level

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More from Merriam-Webster on decibel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for decibel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with decibel

Spanish Central: Translation of decibel

Nglish: Translation of decibel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about decibel

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