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

Keep scrolling for more

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

At 70 decibels, only half of speech is intelligible. Joyce Cohen, Twin Cities, "For those with hearing impairments, restaurant noise isn’t just an irritation. It’s discrimination," 22 June 2019 Today, however, MAD is poised to be one of the highest-decibel openings in Houston in quite a while. Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, "MAD: A sensory ambush arrives at River Oaks District," 19 June 2019 At 70 decibels, only half of speech is intelligible. Joyce Cohen, Washington Post, "For those with hearing impairments, restaurant noise isn’t just an irritation. It’s discrimination.," 17 June 2019 After the break, the goals quickly came -- four in the space of six minutes, raising the decibels inside Stade Auguste-Delaune, a stadium which had turned red, white and blue for the evening. Aimee Lewis, CNN, "US breaks scoring record in emphatic Women's World Cup display," 11 June 2019 If a tree falls in the forest, and the sound registers above 90 decibels, will your Apple Watch send you an alert? Boone Ashworth, WIRED, "Apple's 'Noise' App Is Designed to Save You From Yourself," 9 June 2019 Hunt’s high-decibel pipes, powered by radical passion, made him the equivalent of a rock star in early 19th-century England. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Peterloo’ Review: An Orator Makes a Stand," 4 Apr. 2019 Senate Democrats and their allies are casting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as a grave danger to Americans’ ability to afford health care as a central theme of their high-decibel campaign to block his ascension to the Supreme Court. Amy Goldstein, Washington Post, "Democrats say Kavanaugh could help end Obamacare, but court likely to deal with narrower issues," 12 July 2018 The aluminum then ignites, creating a thunderous noise and flash of up to 184 decibels and nine million candela. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Rectangular, Computerized Grenade Puts a New Spin on the Flashbang," 28 Feb. 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.

See More

First Known Use of decibel

1928, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for decibel

International Scientific Vocabulary deci- + bel

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about decibel

Dictionary Entries near decibel

deci-

Decian

deciare

decibel

decidable

decide

decide against

Statistics for decibel

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decibel

The first known use of decibel was in 1928

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 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

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

Comments on decibel

What made you want to look up decibel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to form ideas or theories about something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!