Main definitions of hum in English

: hum1hum2

hum1

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • 1Make a low, steady continuous sound like that of a bee:

    ‘the computers hummed’
    • ‘There was silence on the bus, and all that could be heard was the sound of the engine humming.’
    • ‘A long peaceful silence followed, the distant sounds of car engines humming and people chattering were the only thing audible.’
    • ‘Steve Gigl has what it takes to keep our computers humming here at Blogger General.’
    • ‘His ears hummed pleasantly and he leaned in towards her.’
    • ‘The chamber had super computers humming merrily all around its perimeter.’
    • ‘She had gotten used to the sound of the engines humming beneath her and noticed that they were not on anymore.’
    • ‘While workers are at home sleeping, their computers are humming along.’
    • ‘Adam typed in some commands, and the computer bank started humming.’
    • ‘He looked behind him, at the computer, which hummed quietly to itself.’
    • ‘The plane's engine hummed incessantly in my ears, while we read of the mission files again, making sure that the details were memorized.’
    • ‘Robin slowly woke up to the sound of a ventilator humming.’
    • ‘The sound of an occasional car passing hummed in my ears combined with muffed, gentle mewing.’
    • ‘John followed and reached behind to close the door but it was already closing, the sound of small hydraulics humming to his right.’
    • ‘A solid wooden floor supports an enormous desk and the latest model PC computer hums quietly, awaiting instruction.’
    • ‘We were in the small, dingy office, paint peeling off the walls and the ancient computer monotonously humming.’
    • ‘After that all I remember is sleep and the soft melody humming in my little ears.’
    • ‘Chizuru ended up staring straight at the ceiling of her room, the gentle purr of the air-conditioner humming inside her ears.’
    • ‘In any case, by 2010, fully half of all electricity generated in the U.S. would go to keep computer hardware humming.’
    • ‘The weather is slowly moving form the melodic hums and buzzes of lazy summer heat to the chirps and crackles of exciting autumn change.’
    • ‘The heartbeat sound hummed in the air once again.’
    purr, whir, throb, vibrate, murmur, buzz, thrum, drone
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Sing with closed lips:
      ‘he hummed softly to himself’
      [with object] ‘she was humming a cheerful tune’
      • ‘It's as if she doesn't know how to hum, she just sings ‘la la la’ all day.’
      • ‘He bends down slightly, surprising her, and starts humming along in her ear.’
      • ‘Chris ran up the stairs and followed the sound of Star humming.’
      • ‘I covered my ears and hummed loudly, rocking side to side.’
      • ‘I rocked with him as I felt my anger slowly fading as he hummed in my ear.’
      • ‘Close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and hum loudly.’
      • ‘Observe that would normally be followed up by the speaker actually humming or singing the tune in question.’
      • ‘There was a door at the top of the stairs and I picked up my pace, hearing the soft sound of William humming to himself, waiting for me to arrive.’
      • ‘It's the theological equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and humming loudly.’
      • ‘She started humming softly and gained in volume until she started singing.’
      • ‘There was a far away muted sound like humming near him.’
      • ‘I put my hands over my ears, hummed loudly, and walked off.’
      • ‘From the shadows came the sounds of a woman humming in counterpoint to the music.’
      • ‘All she heard was a strangely familiar tune, softly hummed in time with the steps.’
      • ‘No matter how tightly I cover my ears and hum into my pillow, it's too late to get the sound out of my head.’
      • ‘Footsteps echoed in the hallway, accompanied by the sound of Benny's humming.’
      • ‘I turned around to Trent, who was still turned around, with his fingers in his ears, humming happily.’
      • ‘After a while he stopped humming and began to sing to himself softly.’
      • ‘Mum would commonly hum or sing while she got ready; sometimes I would sing along or just listen.’
      • ‘She hummed softly to the tune playing in the room as she examined the bandage on her left arm.’
      sing, croon, murmur, drone
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of a place) be filled with a low, steady continuous sound:
      ‘the room hummed with an expectant murmur’
      • ‘It had always seemed that the earth had fairly hummed in anticipation during spring planting.’
      • ‘The huge place fairly hummed with magical energy, for which he was vastly grateful.’
      • ‘They emerged from the hatchway into a dimly lit place that hummed with the sound of strange machinery in operation.’
      • ‘The jungle surrounds us on every side: a wall of green which hums with the buzz of cicadas and a million other unseen insects.’
      • ‘The room hummed for a moment and the receptionist ran in, his face pale as a sheet.’
      • ‘The room fairly hummed with productivity, and it echoed in Jonathan's step.’
      • ‘The room hummed with the excitement of media and well-connected fans.’
      • ‘The entire room hummed as it prepared for another attack.’
      • ‘The late summer garden is a quietly humming hive of activity.’
      • ‘For a while, the meeting rooms hummed as the unofficial home of the Whig Party.’
      • ‘Hissing and smoking, the Conearith Shipyards hummed with construction.’
      • ‘The chimneystacks and sheds that once hummed with the sound of hundreds of spinning and weaving machines, now lie silent.’
      • ‘Excitement still pervaded the air, which hummed with voices and the crackle and pop of logs in the fire like a twenty-one gun salute.’
      • ‘The forest hummed with unseen life and dripped water from its branches.’
      • ‘The place hummed with a much smaller project as Graham buzzed away happily in his workshop making mouldings for the window repair job.’
      • ‘The courtroom hummed with murmurs from the people.’
      • ‘Light, airy and clean, it hums gently to the sound of £1m servers being assembled and tested for hospitals and large corporations around the world.’
      • ‘The base hummed with the excited buzz of conversation as the renegades prepared for the upcoming raid.’
  • 2informal Be in a state of great activity:

    ‘the house was humming with preparations for the dance’
    • ‘The campus was humming with instructive activities and cheerful, volunteer undergraduates directing and informing the crowds with courtesy and charm.’
    • ‘Apparently, the owners' tastes appeal to a lot of folk - the place is humming.’
    • ‘The club restaurant has been shut for several months, but is humming with activity when I arrive, preparing for its relaunch.’
    • ‘A textile factory in Sri Lanka hums with activity.’
    • ‘The village was humming with walkers, the snowdrops were nearly out and I ambled out and took Moor Lane into the countryside.’
    • ‘Towns we remember as sleepy are now humming with antiques shops and coffeehouses.’
    • ‘Scotland's jazz scene is positively humming at the moment and we are proud to call Smith and Kellock our own.’
    • ‘The lobby was just a few paces away, literally humming with activity.’
    • ‘Perhaps the most striking thing observed on our tour is the humming activity in this beehive of development engineering.’
    • ‘The candidates crisscrossed the map, new polls arrived almost every day, and TV screens hummed with ads this past week.’
    • ‘Shopping malls, pubs, icecream parlours and restaurants are humming with activity till late hours.’
    • ‘The place hums with urgent activity, but on the outskirts of the town the simpler pleasures in life are easier to find.’
    • ‘Windsor and the surrounding towns hum with great places to eat, drink and be as merry as a monarch.’
    • ‘The headquarters was air conditioned, crowded and humming with activity from early morning until late at night.’
    • ‘The marina at Bas du Fort just outside the town hums in the evenings.’
    • ‘Three hundred marshalling yards, 2,300 goods sheds and 700 repair depots keep humming with activity all the time.’
    • ‘The place was humming as the huge attendance ate and drank as if there was no tomorrow.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, the Market Place was humming with a busy car boot sale, with many admiring the vintage cars on display.’
    • ‘In the evening and at night, when the farmers came out to plough, or to sow or reap their wheat, the country hummed with activity like a distant industrial town.’
    be busy, be active, be lively, buzz, bustle, be bustling, be a hive of activity, throb, vibrate, pulsate, pulse
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  • 3British informal Smell unpleasant:

    ‘when the wind drops this stuff really hums’
    • ‘One of the staff turned up & was humming; I couldn't have him putting customers off their beer, seeing as I was in charge, so I had no choice but to tell him.’
    • ‘She had unwillingly become immune to the humming stench.’
    smell, stink, stink to high heaven, reek, have a bad smell, be malodorous
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noun

  • 1[in singular] A low, steady continuous sound:

    ‘the hum of insects’
    ‘a low hum of conversation’
    • ‘The steady hum of the city had all but evaporated in the night.’
    • ‘There were wounded who groaned in their sleep or called out, and there was the soft, steady hum of conversation among the wounded who could not sleep.’
    • ‘The open-plan layout reveals a steady hum of industry.’
    • ‘The steady hum of conversation flowed from inside of the cabin.’
    • ‘Most of the noise was from the Scottish man through the speakers, other than that there was a low hum of conversation.’
    • ‘I could hear the sound of cars in the distance (you know, the low hum of continuous traffic), so I walked towards it.’
    • ‘A vehicle accident, no injuries, one trooper announced over the steady hum of the vending machines in the lobby.’
    • ‘It is after curfew, and only the low hum of the engines and occasional animal squeal can be heard.’
    • ‘Suddenly, the air was filled with music, hums and whistles of different pitches.’
    • ‘The steady hum grew louder, and the lights in the theatre turned on.’
    • ‘Tiredly, she sat up and rubbed her eyes, listening to the steady hum of the air conditioner and the buzz of a fly in the window.’
    • ‘The sound of the hum of cars in the distance while I sit here is testimony to that.’
    • ‘The low hum of air conditioning and the buzz of machines unswitched off is always with you, like tinnitus.’
    • ‘A steady hum of voices rises from the crowd sitting on the floor.’
    • ‘The pub was getting busier yet and I could feel the steady hum around me.’
    • ‘The only sound was the low hum of the lights, everything was quiet.’
    • ‘What entered now was the sound of the hums and moans of everyday life, the quiet laugher, the mockery, the sound of horses and oxen.’
    • ‘There's a low hum of conversation, a genteel clink of polished silver on old china, waiters in tails exuding an air of quiet efficiency and old-fashioned servility.’
    • ‘She listened; all was quiet except for the steady hum of the crickets.’
    • ‘A steady hum is heard and the lines on the monitor go flat.’
    murmur, murmuring, drone, droning, vibration, purr, purring, buzz, buzzing, whir, whirring, throb, throbbing, thrum, thrumming
    susurration, susurrus, bombination
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 An unwanted low-frequency noise in an amplifier caused by variation of electric current, especially the alternating frequency of the mains.
      • ‘The only adjustments he makes are to apply De-Hiss filtering and remove low frequency hum.’
      • ‘We did a very extensive mapping of the different primary frequencies of the hum and then its harmonics.’
      • ‘Why is my amp humming?’
      • ‘Stereos don't make any noise, except a very slight electrical hum.’
      • ‘You've just connected your system and there's a buzz or hum that won't go away.’

Phrases

  • hum and haw (or chiefly north americanhem and haw)

    • Be indecisive:

      ‘I was humming and hawing over buying copies’
      • ‘And I'm supposed to smile a lot for all these moronic people who either try to haggle with me about the prices or want to hem and haw for an hour or so before making their decision.’
      • ‘But when I ask his closest advisers whether the Prime Minister has been persuaded of this, they hum and haw.’
      • ‘The longer you hum and haw, the more time you'll spend away from your post.’
      • ‘I know you're going to hem and haw and hedge your bets here, but who do you like, each of you, Vonzel, Carrie or Bo?’
      • ‘There's been a bunch of legal experts wheeled on to hum and haw about this - perhaps it's good for Michael, because they'd know that kids lie.’
      • ‘It's also what makes the game longer than you might expect, as players hem and haw over their partial information, trying to reason out who gave what to whom.’
      • ‘We, as girls, will hem and haw and analyze every letter of what we say to that ‘chosen ‘guy, and worry about how we're coming off, and just worry in general.’
      • ‘I never knew how to - I'd hem and haw and qualify like I'm doing now.’
      • ‘Beckett never explained just who or what Godot is, preferring to let generations of theatre types hem and haw over the possibilities.’
      • ‘After the 6 month period is up, we hum and haw about whether or not we really want to hire the person so we get extended for another 6 months.’
      be indecisive, hesitate, dither, vacillate, procrastinate, equivocate, prevaricate, waver, falter, fluctuate
      haver
      swither
      shilly-shally, dilly-dally, blow hot and cold, pussyfoot around
      tarry
      View synonyms

Origin

Late Middle English: imitative.

Pronunciation:

hum

/hʌm/

Main definitions of hum in English

: hum1hum2

hum2

exclamation

  • Used to express hesitation or dissent:

    ‘‘Ah, hum, Elsie, isn't it?’’
    ‘‘Hum. How long did you invite her for?’’
    • ‘Hum, wonder who emailed overnight?’
    • ‘Hum, wonder if they'll hire an NYC based firm?’

Origin

Mid 16th century: imitative; related to the verb hum.

Pronunciation:

hum

/h(ə)m//hʌm/