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 nonverbal (audio) \ adverb

Examples of nonverbal in a Sentence

Facial expressions are very important for nonverbal communication.
Recent Examples on the Web Throughout the year, 11-year-old Andrew, who has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal, was excited again and again every time an Amazon delivery arrived at the door of his home in Mobile. Michelle Matthews |, al, "Andrew Carpenter showed us in 2020 what joy looks like," 24 Dec. 2020 Many of the artisans have intellectual and other disabilities, and about half are nonverbal. Washington Post, "Need a last-minute gift? How about a camel? A different kind of year has groups hoping shoppers will turn to a different kind of giving.," 16 Dec. 2020 On Zoom, be cognizant of nonverbal cues like eye rolling, aggressive posture, or an aggravated tone. Whitney Phillips, Wired, "How to Have Productive Conversations About Election Misinformation," 24 Nov. 2020 The reason, says Alan Teo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, is likely that some 80 percent of human communication is nonverbal. Popular Science, "Zoom chats can be surprisingly therapeutic," 7 Dec. 2020 Richard, who had been nonverbal for the prior year, did not have a cell phone, ID, or credit card on him at the time. NBC News, "Seven years of Dateline's Missing in America: 156 still missing," 5 Dec. 2020 The film’s trailer portrays Music as a nonverbal teenager who uses augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Alaina Leary,, "Sia, Stories About Autism Should Centre Autistic People. Period.," 23 Nov. 2020 The film tells the story of a newly sober sister struggling to take care of her nonverbal autistic sister. Zoe Christen Jones, CBS News, "Sia defends portrayal of autistic character in new film," 20 Nov. 2020 Although their exact diagnosis was unknown—at the time, they were just called imbecile—the sisters were said to be severely handicapped and nonverbal and have a mental age of six. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "The Crown: The Sad, True Story of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret’s Estranged Cousins," 16 Nov. 2020

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

28 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nonverbal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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