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dumber; dumbest
: lacking intelligence : stupid
pretended to be dumb
: showing a lack of intelligence
asking dumb questions
a dumb look on his face
: requiring no intelligence
dumb luck
: lacking the human power of speech
dumb animals
dated, offensive, of a person; see usage paragraph below : lacking the ability to speak : mute
: temporarily unable to speak (as from shock or astonishment)
struck dumb with fear
: not expressed in uttered words
dumb grief
: silent
they were capable of sitting for hours, dumb and unabashed, over their pipesEllen Glasgow
also : taciturn
: lacking some usual attribute or accompaniment
especially : having no means of self-propulsion
a dumb barge
: not having the capability to process data
a dumb terminal
compare intelligent sense 3a
dumbly adverb
dumbness noun
Usage of Dumb

The term dumb as a descriptor for someone lacking the ability to speak was once common, and from the early 19th century, it featured in the names of schools and advocacy organizations. In that same century, however, rejection of the term by the population it aimed to describe began, and by the end of the 20th century, the offensiveness of dumb was widely recognized. When a single term to describe someone who lacks the ability to speak is called for, the adjective mute is used instead.


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dumbed; dumbing; dumbs

transitive verb

: to make silent : deaden
would lie around, dumbed by the drugsNorman Mailer
Choose the Right Synonym for dumb

stupid, dull, dense, crass, dumb mean lacking in power to absorb ideas or impressions.

stupid implies a slow-witted or dazed state of mind that may be either congenital or temporary.

stupid students just keeping the seats warm
stupid with drink

dull suggests a slow or sluggish mind such as results from disease, depression, or shock.

monotonous work that leaves the mind dull

dense implies a thickheaded imperviousness to ideas.

too dense to take a hint

crass suggests a grossness of mind precluding discrimination or delicacy.

a crass, materialistic people

dumb applies to an exasperating obtuseness or lack of comprehension.

too dumb to figure out what's going on

Examples of dumb in a Sentence

Adjective I'm not dumb enough to believe that. It was a dumb idea in the first place. He just stood there with a dumb grin on his face. This is one of the dumbest TV shows I've ever seen. It was dumb luck that we found this place at all. His success is just a matter of dumb luck. He was born deaf and dumb. Verb the terrible news dumbed her for a long moment, and then she burst into tears See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Ratajkowski has been fighting the stereotype of the dumb model from the beginning of her career. Daniel Jackson, Allure, 18 July 2017 Ninety nine percent of all NFL players are explicitly not dumb. Andy Benoit, The MMQB, 10 July 2017 And all of it thanks to mango lovers, tolerant homeowners and dumb luck. Carlos Frías, miamiherald, 29 June 2017 There's nothing inherently wrong with remaking The Mummy; the 1999 film (itself a remake) is a lot of dumb fun, but just that. Josh Spiegel, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 June 2017 Pete Townshend wrote the music and the lyrics for the inspiring story of the deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure plays a mean pinball. Dan Kelly, kansascity.com, 6 June 2017 Some Dumb American, for giving me the opportunity — and for demonstrating what doing it badly looks like. Lily Meade, Teen Vogue, 6 July 2017 The difference between the dumb comments of the past and the inappropriate remarks of today, however, is the size of our audience. Ana Veciana-Suarez, miamiherald, 3 July 2017 Here are the top five dumb things Louisville drivers do. Jeffrey Lee Puckett, The Courier-Journal, 30 June 2017
This includes throwing out 31 of 47 runners dumb enough to run on him in 2022. James Yasko, Chron, 24 Mar. 2023 Don’t dumb the game down. Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2022 Remember: when in doubt, dumb it down. Yec, Forbes, 24 June 2021 M3GAN kills people, but our gal is not about to dumb herself down for Ken. Mattie Kahn, Town & Country, 14 Jan. 2023 Cheap shots, but hey, some reboots should dumb-shame their predecessors. Darren Franich, EW.com, 5 Jan. 2023 From prestige dramas like Anatomy of a Scandal (the #1 English-language Netflix show around the world right now) to dumb reality series. Andy Meek, BGR, 28 Apr. 2022 Worse, the country’s attempts to fix the schools have tended to dumb them down, experts say. New York Times, 1 Mar. 2020 Auto-aim system does just enough legwork to let players focus on speed without completely dumbing the game down. Sam MacHkovech, Ars Technica, 7 Nov. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dumb.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Verb

Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German tumb mute

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1607, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dumb was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near dumb

Cite this Entry

“Dumb.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dumb. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: lacking the human power of speech
dumb animals
of a person, often offensive : lacking the ability to speak
: not willing to speak
dumbness noun

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