decibel

noun
deci·​bel | \ ˈde-sə-ˌbel , -bəl\

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

These sonar noises can burst up to 235 decibels, and are thought to cause considerable harm to whales, including driving them to self-injury and death. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy Is Limiting Noisier Activities to Protect an Endangered Whale," 15 Nov. 2018 West’s party didn’t even start until 9:30 p.m. and that the volume was cranked up to 120 decibels, according to the gossip site. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Kanye West event leads to Wyoming ranch banning rap parties," 6 June 2018 However, music at a concert is usually around 100 decibels. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Protect your ears: you might not realize what’s hurting them," 19 June 2018 Noise at street level in New York City was found to average about 73 decibels in a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health. Adrienne Roberts, WSJ, "How Sound Affects Our Health," 16 Sep. 2018 Though these numbers can vary, heavy city traffic clocks in at about 85 decibels, according to the NIDCD. Cassie Shortsleeve, SELF, "7 Ear Problems That Can Mess With Your Summer," 18 Aug. 2018 Not from pain, not from fatigue, not from his ferocious decibel level. Polo Tate, Marie Claire, "Sexual Assault in the Military: One Woman's True Story," 8 Aug. 2018 By contrast, a rock concert could reach as high as 100 or more decibels. Marci Shatzman, Sun-Sentinel.com, "New I-95 sound walls rising from Boca Raton to Deerfield Beach," 6 July 2018 West’s party didn’t even start until 9:30 p.m. and that the volume was cranked up to 120 decibels, according to the gossip site. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Kanye West event leads to Wyoming ranch banning rap parties," 7 June 2018

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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Learn More about decibel

Dictionary Entries near decibel

deci-

Decian

deciare

decibel

decidable

decide

decide against

Statistics for decibel

Last Updated

4 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decibel

The first known use of decibel was in 1928

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More Definitions for decibel

decibel

noun

English Language Learners Definition of decibel

technical : a unit for measuring how loud a sound is

decibel

noun
deci·​bel | \ ˈde-sə-ˌbel , -bəl\

Kids Definition of decibel

: a unit for measuring the loudness of sounds

decibel

noun
deci·​bel | \ ˈdes-ə-bəl , -ˌbel \

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on decibel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with decibel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for decibel

Spanish Central: Translation of decibel

Nglish: Translation of decibel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about decibel

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