sounding board


: a structure behind or over a pulpit, rostrum, or platform to give distinctness and sonority to sound
: a device or agency that helps propagate opinions or utterances
: a person or group on whom one tries out an idea or opinion as a means of evaluating it

Did you know?

The Literal Origins of Sounding Board

Beginning during the Renaissance, a flat wooden canopy called a sounding board was placed over church pulpits, amplifying the sound of the preacher's voice, carrying it to the farthest reaches of the church. Similarly, ideas can be spread by a figurative sounding board. A publication, for example, can be a sounding board for propaganda. That's one modern sense of the word. But when sound bounces off a literal sounding board, not only does it reach more people, it also comes across more clearly. Likewise, bouncing ideas off another person can lend clarity to one's thought processes. If someone comes to you and says "How does this sound?" and leaves with his or her mind made up (whether or not you've ventured a word), you have served as a very effective sounding board.

Examples of sounding board in a Sentence

My friend is my sounding board for new ideas.
Recent Examples on the Web Two artists in particular, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator, served as a sounding board for the record. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 14 Nov. 2023 The former president tends to treat his close personal aides as sounding boards for all manner of topics. Nicholas Nehamas,, 14 June 2023 Christie was a key sounding board and outside adviser who was particularly helpful to Trump on debate prep in both 2016 and 2020. Rick Klein, ABC News, 7 June 2023 Obama played the role of sounding board, weighing the pros and cons of Biden’s options rather than backing anyone, including Harris, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Astead W. Herndon, New York Times, 10 Oct. 2023 And try not to have your child be the sounding board for your own climate change fears. Mia Taylor, Parents, 19 Sep. 2023 Find friends who understand you and use them as sounding boards, find a good therapist, find anyone that can help you steady and see the larger picture. Meghan Leahy, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2023 German Nenov, a creative director with Ukraine’s public broadcaster, was a vital sounding board for the British team, Green said. Alex Marshall, New York Times, 12 May 2023 For Scott, having an alternative sounding board first could have made all the difference. Ash Hobkin*, Parents, 10 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1729, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of sounding board was in 1729


Dictionary Entries Near sounding board

Cite this Entry

“Sounding board.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

sounding board

: a structure behind or over a speaker's platform to make sound uttered from it clear
: a means for helping to spread opinions
: a person or group on whom new ideas or opinions are tested

More from Merriam-Webster on sounding board

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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