non·​ver·​bal | \ ˌnän-ˈvər-bəl How to pronounce nonverbal (audio) \

Definition of nonverbal

: not verbal: such as
a : not involving or using words Still, this pope projects eloquence in his off-the-cuff remarks or even during the long interludes between speeches when he is engaged in nonverbal communication with individuals and crowds.— John S. Driscoll … psychological aggression refers to both coercive verbal behaviors (e.g., insulting or swearing at partner) and coercive nonverbal behaviors that are not directed at the partner's body (e.g., slamming doors or smashing objects).— Alan E. Kazdin et al.
b : being other than verbal … some hidden, nonverbal quality of her life that could only be alluded to in the act of painting.— Diane Armitage
c : lacking or appearing to lack the ability to engage in speech She finds she can communicate with nonverbal children using drum beats, for example.— Robert S. Greenberger

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from nonverbal

nonverbally \ ˌnän-​ˈvər-​bə-​lē How to pronounce nonverbally (audio) \ adverb

Examples of nonverbal in a Sentence

Facial expressions are very important for nonverbal communication.
Recent Examples on the Web Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills cause severe impairments in functioning, very limited initiation of social interactions, and minimal response to social overtures from others. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "The Uses and Abuses of the Term ‘Mental Illness’," 26 Sep. 2019 Officials said the 97-year-old suffers from dementia and is nonverbal. Fox News, "California 'team of junior detectives' help find missing 97-year-old woman with dementia," 6 Oct. 2019 Some members are nonverbal, others have booming operatic tones., "For an hour each Wednesday evening in Duxbury, Eve Montague coaxes a symphony of sound from Community Voices, the chorus for “singers of all abilities” — many with autism and cerebral palsy — that she formed 10 years ago as director of creative arts therapies at South Shore Conservatory.," 5 Dec. 2019 Richard, who had been nonverbal for the past year, did not have a cell phone, ID, or credit card on him at the time. NBC News, "Six years of Dateline's Missing in America: 134 still missing," 5 Dec. 2019 With an inordinately expressive, open face, Haggard produces nonverbal acting in the series that’s in a league of its own. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Joyful Redemption of Back to Life," 10 Nov. 2019 There's no protocol, there's no procedure for children who are nonverbal. Brieanna J Frank, azcentral, "'We're to love like Jesus loved': Chandler Catholic church to host first sensory-friendly Mass," 1 Nov. 2019 But, in a deft demonstration of his grasp of nonverbal communication, Brady, like his coach, turned to reveal a thin grin. Bill Pennington, New York Times, "Patriot Ghosts Haunt the Jets Again," 22 Oct. 2019 For example, a person who speaks simple sentences, whose interaction is limited to narrow special interests, and how has markedly odd nonverbal communication. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "The Uses and Abuses of the Term ‘Mental Illness’," 26 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nonverbal.' 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 nonverbal

1846, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nonverbal

Time Traveler for nonverbal

Time Traveler

The first known use of nonverbal was in 1846

See more words from the same year

Statistics for nonverbal

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nonverbal.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nonverbal


How to pronounce nonverbal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nonverbal

: not involving or using words
: not able to speak

More from Merriam-Webster on nonverbal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nonverbal

Nglish: Translation of nonverbal for Spanish Speakers

Comments on nonverbal

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


to insert between existing elements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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