si·​lence | \ ˈsī-lən(t)s How to pronounce silence (audio) \

Definition of silence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : forbearance from speech or noise : muteness often used interjectionally
2 : absence of sound or noise : stillness in the silence of the night
3 : absence of mention:
b : secrecy weapons research was conducted in silence
4 genetics : to block the genetic expression of RNA interference is a natural phenomenon. When a cell senses a double strand of RNA, it acts to silence any genes with the corresponding sequence of bases.— Andrew Pollack


silenced; silencing

Definition of silence (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to compel or reduce to silence : still silenced the crowd
2 : suppress silence dissent
3 : to cause to cease hostile firing or criticism silence the opposition

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Synonyms for silence

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of silence in a Sentence

Noun I find it hard to sleep unless there is complete silence. The silence was broken by the sound of footsteps in the hallway. We sat there in dead silence. My sister's revelation was met with stunned silence. The professor asked for silence. There was an awkward silence after he confessed his love for her. A long silence followed her reply. We must break 50 years of silence on issues like the government's involvement in assassination and espionage. I will not be intimidated into silence. She finally ended her silence and spoke to the media about what happened. Verb My sister's revelation silenced everyone around the table. Disconnecting the battery will silence the alarm. The mayor tried to silence his critics. I will not be silenced! It's obvious that the purpose of this law is to silence dissent.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But there can be just as much drama found in silence as there is in noise, and if the first safe step in returning to the latter is exploring the former, then sign me up. Mike Finger,, "Mike Finger: Time for sports to embrace the unthinkable," 16 May 2020 And though curling up in a corner with a book seems like an obvious, natural act, reading alone and in silence is a relatively recent phenomenon. Mark Athitakis, Washington Post, "Forget all those reading lists. During a quarantine, any book will do.," 9 May 2020 These two-player titles make a terrific break from staring at your respective phones in silence. Aaron Zimmerman, Dan Thurot, Ars Technica, "The best board games to play with your quarantined housemates," 26 Apr. 2020 The trek to the city, beginning in the early morning hours, unfolds largely in silence, Autumn lost in her thoughts and Skylar offering invisible support. Ty Burr,, "‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ is a quietly devastating drama about the lives of young women in America," 1 Apr. 2020 Each June, the authorities in Beijing silence family members of protesters who were killed in the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. Vivian Wang, New York Times, "Coronavirus Survivors Want Answers, and China Is Silencing Them," 4 May 2020 Trump's criticism of Bush dealt with the latter's silence during the impeachment investigation and trial. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Donald Trump attacks George W. Bush after the latter does a coronavirus video," 3 May 2020 On April 29, Stephen Kemp arrived at his office just outside Detroit to a perplexing silence. Tik Root, Time, "Three Days in a Detroit Funeral Home Ravaged by the Coronavirus," 1 May 2020 Ahead of rent day in April, the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance issued a call to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to cancel rent for four months, freeze rent levels, and permanently rehouse all houseless residents, only to be met with silence. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Era of the Endless Rent Strike," 30 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Despite this behaviour from the US President, women journalists have united against Trump, showing that the will continue to take him to task despite multiple efforts to silence them. Elly Belle,, "Women Reporters Unite With Weijia Jiang Against Trump’s Racist & Sexist Media Attacks," 12 May 2020 Despite this behavior from the President, women journalists have united against Trump, showing that the will continue to take him to task despite multiple efforts to silence them. Elly Belle, Refinery29, "Women Reporters Unite With Weijia Jiang Against Trump’s Racist & Sexist Media Attacks," 12 May 2020 Equally troubling, clinicians have been silenced from speaking out about the risks. Keith Corl, STAT, "When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, health care must not return to business as usual," 23 Apr. 2020 There have been a lot more empty seats at President Trump’s daily press briefings — but no, news organizations aren’t boycotting the events in protest or attempting to silence him, despite what earlier this week. Paul Farhi, Washington Post, "Why are journalists skipping Trump’s daily coronavirus briefing? Not enough news to risk their health.," 31 Mar. 2020 Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville students build larger-than-life Russian nesting dolls for Broadway's 'Anastasia'," 11 Mar. 2020 In speaking out about the virus and about government efforts to silence him, Dr. Li drew comparisons to Jiang Yanyong, a surgeon who became a hero after blowing the whistle on Beijing’s efforts to cover up the extent of the SARS crisis in 2003. Josh Chin, WSJ, "Chinese Doctor Who Issued Early Warning on Virus Dies," 7 Feb. 2020 After digging a 15-point hole early in the third quarter, Golden State used a barrage of 3-pointers to silence the crowd. Connor Letourneau,, "Warriors show they’re deserving of attention in comeback win over Nuggets," 3 Mar. 2020 Badgers guard D'Mitrik Trice hit a 3 on the following possession — silencing the crowd for Wisconsin (18-10, 11-6). Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Zavier Simpson's career night can't save Michigan basketball in 81-74 loss to Wisconsin," 28 Feb. 2020

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for silence


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin silentium, from silent-, silens

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Time Traveler for silence

Time Traveler

The first known use of silence was in the 13th century

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Statistics for silence

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Silence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for silence


How to pronounce silence (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of silence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a lack of sound or noise
: a situation, state, or period of time in which people do not talk
: a situation or state in which someone does not talk about or answer questions about something



English Language Learners Definition of silence (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause (someone or something) to stop speaking or making noise : to cause (someone or something) to become silent
: to stop (someone) from expressing opinions that are opposed to your own or from telling people about bad things that you have done
: to stop (something) from being expressed or revealed


si·​lence | \ ˈsī-ləns How to pronounce silence (audio) \

Kids Definition of silence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the state of keeping or being silent The teacher motioned for silence.
2 : the state of there being no sound or noise : stillness


silenced; silencing

Kids Definition of silence (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to stop the noise or speech of : cause to be silent
2 : suppress sense 1 The group tried to silence opposing views.
si·​lence | \ ˈsī-lən(t)s How to pronounce silence (audio) \
silenced; silencing

Medical Definition of silence

: to block the genetic expression of : suppress the gene was silenced using the technique of RNA interference

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Legal Definition of silence

1 : the state of keeping or being silent especially : forbearance from speech or comment
2 : failure to make something known especially in violation of a duty to do so acceptance by silence — see also estoppel by silence at estoppel sense 1

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More from Merriam-Webster on silence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for silence

Spanish Central: Translation of silence

Nglish: Translation of silence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of silence for Arabic Speakers

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