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mute (myt)
Share:
adj. mut·er, mut·est
1. Refraining from producing speech or vocal sound.
2.
a. Offensive Unable to speak.
b. Unable to vocalize, as certain animals.
3. Expressed without speech; unspoken: a mute appeal.
4. Law Declining to enter a plea to a criminal charge: standing mute.
5. Linguistics
a. Not pronounced; silent, as the e in the word house.
b. Pronounced with a temporary stoppage of breath, as the sounds (p) and (b); plosive; stopped.
n.
1. Offensive One who is incapable of speech.
2. Law A defendant who declines to enter a plea to a criminal charge.
3. Music Any of various devices used to muffle or soften the tone of an instrument.
4. Linguistics
a. A silent letter.
b. A plosive; a stop.
tr.v. mut·ed, mut·ing, mutes
1. To soften or muffle the sound of.
2. To soften the tone, color, shade, or hue of.

[Middle English muet, from Old French, from diminutive of mu, from Latin mūtus.]

mutely adv.
muteness n.

Usage Note: In reference to people who are unable to speak, mute and deaf-mute are now usually considered objectionable. Unlike blind and deaf, which are straightforward terms that need not be avoided out of fear of causing offense, mute and deaf-mute have fallen out of use and are likely to evoke older stereotypes of helplessness or pitiableness. They are especially objectionable if taken to imply that a person who cannot or does not use oral speech is thereby deprived of language. Many people who lack the ability to speak now converse through ASL or similar sign languages, which have the same communicative utility as spoken language. See Usage Note at deaf.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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