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 Prior to the game, the Cougars will observe a moment of silence for John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, who were among nine people that died in the Jan. 25 helicopter crash that claimed the life of NBA icon Kobe Bryant. Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle, "Men’s basketball preview: No. 25 Houston vs. Tulane," 5 Feb. 2020 There was a moment of silence for 24.2 seconds (for Bryant’s and his daughter’s number) in the dark. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "The Lakers Remember Kobe Bryant With a Game ‘Straight From the Heart’," 1 Feb. 2020 The team skipped starting lineup introductions and instead held a 24-second moment of silence for Bryant before playing a video that showed several of his career highlights and matchups against Boston. Adam Himmelsbach,, "Celtics more than got the job done against Warriors, and other observations," 30 Jan. 2020 At the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon on Monday, the event began with a moment of silence for Bryant and the eight other victims of the helicopter crash, which included Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Tyler Aquilina,, "Watch Kobe Bryant's Oscar-winning short film Dear Basketball," 28 Jan. 2020 There was a moment of silence for Bryant prior to the national anthem. oregonlive, "No. 4 Oregon silences No. 7 Oregon State with second-half defense, wins 66-57 for first Civil War sweep in 10 years: Game at a glance," 27 Jan. 2020 Rubin recalled, before leading a moment of silence for Bryant. Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "Oscar Nominees Luncheon: Kobe Remembered, Diversity Touted and #BongHive Represented," 27 Jan. 2020 The Spurs had a moment of silence for Bryant, who was 41, before the start of the game. Tom Orsborn,, "Player tributes to Kobe Bryant touched Spurs fans," 26 Jan. 2020 The 2020 legislative session began Tuesday for the Kentucky General Assembly, where the Kentucky House of Representatives began the day with a moment of silence for Carney. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky House leader John 'Bam' Carney, still hospitalized, files for 2020 reelection," 7 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The investigation revealed bureaucrats who had silenced whistleblowers and shuffled a problem doctor from one Native American reservation to another. WSJ, "Forsaken by the Indian Health Service," 16 Jan. 2020 In another change to church law this year, Francis decreed that victims cannot be silenced, and have the right to learn the outcomes of their cases. Nicole Winfield,, "Vatican tribunal now overwhelmed by clergy abuse cases," 20 Dec. 2019 The Vatican in May issued another law explicitly saying victims cannot be silenced and have a right to learn the outcome of canonical trials. Nicole Winfield, The Denver Post, "Pope abolishes “pontifical secret” in clergy sex abuse cases," 17 Dec. 2019 People in South Bend are tired of feeling silenced, and people in South Bend are tired of talking about Pete Buttigieg instead. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "Pete Buttigieg’s High Hopes," 16 Dec. 2019 The woman is silenced forever, and the perpetrator gets to stay on the job, because nobody knows about it. Olivia Fleming, Harper's BAZAAR, "Gretchen Carlson Refuses to Be Silenced," 6 Nov. 2019 His 42-yard run following Lukes’ touchdown silenced the crowd and set up Braeden Walker’s 17-yard score in just three plays. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "With a gutsy call, Charlestown upsets Brownstown Central to advance in the playoffs," 26 Oct. 2019 The Democrats thrive on silencing and intimidating his supporters, like YOU, Friend. Ana Radelat,, "Pete Buttigieg continues to lead in campaign fundraising in Connecticut," 21 Oct. 2019 Judge Celeste Bell had to silence the crowd in the courtroom, and in the hallway, courthouse security guards tried to quiet the crowd because other cases were still proceeding in nearby courtrooms. John Wisely, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State great Mateen Cleaves acquitted on all charges in rape trial," 20 Aug. 2019

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

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Silence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 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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