Definition of dull in US English:



  • 1Lacking interest or excitement.

    ‘your diet doesn't have to be dull and boring’
    • ‘Moviegoers who look beyond the daily coming and goings, perhaps on a second viewing, may find the dispassionate style, lack of plot momentum and flat characters a little dull.’
    • ‘What a boring, dull choice for a boring performer.’
    • ‘Only church bells ringing, and the walk of church-goers and the faithful going on daily prayers added any dull excitement to the Sunday.’
    • ‘The next day was as boring, mundane, unexciting, humdrum, dull, tedious, uneventful and monotonous as usual.’
    • ‘The left wing think tanks, for instance, are now lifeless, dull and lacking in ideas.’
    • ‘Instead of seeing the area as boring and dull, they described it as busy, familiar and interesting.’
    • ‘So no excuses for last minute gifts that are bland, boring and dull.’
    • ‘That would add greater interest to an otherwise dull sport, and would mean a large pool of volunteers willing to sweep up the pitch at the final whistle.’
    • ‘It is a gifted novelist, indeed, who can make ordinary events come alive, and who can interest the reader in ordinary, even dull, characters.’
    • ‘I was not in the least bit interested in the dull suitors, with their hungry looks and weak minds.’
    • ‘More dull, bland, insipid and uninspiring commercial radio is on its way!’
    • ‘We have a natural tendency to place emphasis on matters which are ponderous, dull and uninteresting.’
    • ‘Granted, three of the bits work well, but the rest are so banal, so dull, so lifeless, that one has to wonder how this thing ever got released.’
    • ‘We very rarely get to see any of it, because we all assume no-one else would be interested in the dull rigmarole of our lives.’
    • ‘It was a rare moment of excitement in an otherwise dull match.’
    • ‘Their journey would have been so much more interesting and exciting, instead of dull and boring most of the time.’
    • ‘The quiet little village seemed kind of dull after the excitement.’
    • ‘If it's dull, boring and lifeless, your reader will surely move on.’
    • ‘I think they have realised that it is not all dull and boring.’
    • ‘But they still probably create the most excitement in a very dull weight class.’
    uninteresting, boring, tedious, tiresome, wearisome, dry, dry as dust, flat, bland, characterless, featureless, colourless, monotonous, unexciting, uninspiring, unstimulating, lacking variety, lacking variation, lacking excitement, lacking interest, unimaginative, uneventful, lifeless, soulless, insipid
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    1. 1.1archaic (of a person) feeling bored and dispirited.
      ‘she said she wouldn't be dull and lonely’
  • 2Lacking brightness, vividness, or sheen.

    ‘his face glowed in the dull lamplight’
    ‘his black hair looked dull’
    • ‘She had russet colored hair that turned a dull red in the lamplight.’
    • ‘Both turned to watch the young child in silence, her once bright aqua eyes were dull; no light shone in them and her demeanor was cold.’
    • ‘Floors are also concrete, painted black and lacquered to a dull sheen.’
    • ‘The bell on the door tinkled merrily in the dull glow of lamplight.’
    • ‘It was made of stone, just as the storeroom had been, and shone with a dull sheen.’
    • ‘Her eyelids appear swollen, a dull gold in the lamplight.’
    • ‘I use a stick to gingerly push aside the stalks and turn over the debris, picking out the dull sheen of a slug here, the progress of a tiny worm there.’
    • ‘The most beautiful was a series of small graphite paintings, buffed to a dull sheen that recalls the surfaces of ancient mirrors.’
    • ‘A great way to get those green fingers moving in the winter months with the added bonus of perhaps brightening up a dull corner of the living room.’
    • ‘Once the iron sheet is buffed to give it the dull sheen the engraving work is taken up.’
    • ‘The mixture of bright and dull colors attracted many customers.’
    • ‘The pamor adds color and beauty to the otherwise dull black sheen of the blade.’
    • ‘Ian picked up the revolver and held it in his lap with both hands, staring at it, admiring the dull sheen of the metal.’
    • ‘Hot colours tend to advance visually and dominate, making less strong colours appear dull and insipid.’
    • ‘The figure's leather clad legs were the only part of him that was visible in the dull lamp light.’
    • ‘A half smile graced my lips and my dull blue eyes brightened up.’
    • ‘Then it goes back, filches the worst and puts a dull sheen on it.’
    • ‘It's now hanging over my desk bringing a little brightness into my otherwise dull room.’
    • ‘In most stores, the lighting is either too bright or too dull, but here it is perfect.’
    • ‘There's a uniform, dull sheen to the advice received by council.’
    drab, dreary, sombre, dark, subdued, muted, toned down, lacklustre, lustreless, colourless, faded, washed out, muddy, watery, pale
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    1. 2.1 (of the weather) overcast; gloomy.
      ‘next morning dawned dull’
      • ‘The weather may have been dull, but events were not.’
      • ‘There was a splash of sunlight late morning in what has otherwise been a dull, overcast day, and I went out to sit in it for as long as it lasted.’
      • ‘The weather was typical of this time of year with dull, overcast skies, intermittent drizzle and a drop in temperature.’
      • ‘I go through each day and it seems like each day is dull or overcast.’
      • ‘The usual five-hour match period around midday should do the field few favours unless conditions are dull and overcast.’
      • ‘The one near my University served a wonderful noodle soup that gladdened the heart on dull, overcast winter afternoons.’
      • ‘This dull, grey weather has me dreaming of better climates, where I can sit on the beach with a Mai-tai in my hand, listening to the waves lapping up on the shore.’
      • ‘I dislike with intensity days like today, it was dull, overcast and intermittently pouring with rain and my mood was only marginally better.’
      • ‘The wind was blowing strong and the sky was overcast and dull.’
      • ‘It's been mild, too, and I had the kitchen door wide open until the early evening, much to the delight of the cats, who love to mooch in and out when the weather is dull.’
      • ‘Across the region, despite the dull Easter weekend weather, resorts and leisure attractions were celebrating yesterday after a bumper holiday weekend.’
      • ‘Without their bravery, courage and sacrifice on a dull, overcast morning in early summer in 1944, the free Europe would not exist today.’
      • ‘Only when he had not returned in the early evening - he had no coat and was only wearing a thin cotton shirt even though the weather was dull and showery - did concern start to mount.’
      • ‘Film-makers also say the dull weather bathes the vehicle in a soft light preferable to the harsh reflections caused by bright sunlight on shiny metal surfaces.’
      • ‘As a result, when it reaches the British Isles it tends to produce dull, overcast weather often with drizzle.’
      • ‘One minute it was lovely and the Sun was warm on my bare legs, the next minute it was dull, overcast, and horribly humid.’
      • ‘Since then the clouds have rolled in and it has become just another dull, overcast day, barely even worthy of mention.’
      • ‘Despite a dull and overcast day, their welcome could not have been warmer, traditional Irish hospitality being extended by all.’
      • ‘While the sun did not shine, many Easter bonnets were on display in the calm, dry but dull weather conditions.’
      • ‘By the time we got home the weather became dull and chilly.’
      overcast, cloudy, gloomy, dark, dim, dismal, dreary, bleak, sombre, grey, leaden, murky, sunless, louring
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    2. 2.2 (of sound) not clear; muffled.
      ‘a dull thud of hooves’
      • ‘A good wheel gives a true ring, a cracked one responds with a dull sound.’
      • ‘What that means for people nearby is that nights are accompanied by the sound of a dull thud, boom-booming its way around the neighbourhood.’
      • ‘Yet for her it was only a dull sound, ringing in the back of her mind like some long-forgotten memory.’
      • ‘At first, the sound is just a dull roar, but then after a while you pick out patterns in the ticking, as the metronomes go in and out of phase with each other.’
      • ‘The frantic battering of the fireflies and the dull click of the demon's hooves sounded like thunder against the heavy, dead air.’
      • ‘When a sample of the cancer cells touched the man's forehead, the percussion sound changed from resonant sound to a dull sound.’
      • ‘The trees around the narrow winding road muffled the buzz, the dull roar of an engine, to keep all residents happy.’
      • ‘The dull thud of horse hooves on the packed earth changed suddenly to the loud clacking of iron horseshoes on a paved road.’
      • ‘Prodding the ground with his javelin he walked across the floor until he heard a the dull sound of steel on wood.’
      • ‘The computer sounded a dull beep and the doors slid away to reveal what looked like the bridge of a ship.’
      • ‘There was a dull sound in the air, like the pounding wheels of distant chariots.’
      • ‘It sounded like a dull roar at first, but now it was nearly deafening.’
      • ‘Next minute she heard a dull thud and all sound from the back ceased.’
      • ‘There was an uncanny lack of sound for an attack until about fifty yards in front of the gate when the warriors took up a battle cry that sounded like a dull roar.’
      • ‘The beams pulled them in closer until a dull thud sounded throughout the thick hulls of the salvage vessels.’
      • ‘Halfway through this life, the snap in my step is the dull sound of bone on bone, like bass castanets.’
      • ‘The dull sound fell loudly into the silence of the prison.’
      • ‘In a few moments, he heard a low, dull sound, and didn't realize until a few moments longer that he was purring.’
      • ‘Thoughtfully, I tapped on the slab of rock, hearing a dull boom as the sound came back, reflected in the room it was hiding.’
      • ‘The only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers.’
      muffled, muted, quiet, soft, softened, faint, indistinct
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    3. 2.3 (of pain) indistinctly felt; not acute.
      ‘there was a dull pain in his lower jaw’
      • ‘Having said that I know I'm lucky that it only effects a few joints in my fingers and the pain is more a dull ache than a debilitating one.’
      • ‘Occasionally there may be a dull ache, or even more seldom, acute pain.’
      • ‘Then there was a dull pain that traveled down my leg causing it to ache but for only a moment.’
      • ‘His arms, his legs, his neck, almost every part of his body throbbed with the dull ache of pain.’
      • ‘After several minutes, the pain subsided to a dull ache in my rib cage.’
      • ‘She could still feel the wrinkled skin of her fingers from the apple's juice and the dull twinge of pain that penetrated every muscle in her back.’
      • ‘Some women often have tension headaches, which cause squeezing pain or a dull ache on both sides of the head or the back of the neck.’
      • ‘The dull pain, not even a throb, just a constant, nagging ache, seems to be inside your body, deep inside, rattling your bones, if that were possible.’
      • ‘My right knee is in a constant pulse of dull pain.’
      • ‘All through her tantrum she felt the pain inside of her, but with after a half an hour her pain subsided into a dull ache.’
      • ‘The pain starts with a dull ache and blossoms into something incredible.’
      • ‘My finger is recovering well, I'm in no pain from that quarter, although I have a dull ache in my leg where I was shot full of medication.’
      • ‘For the last two weeks I've been waking up with a dull pain in my groin.’
      • ‘As he stood he felt every bone in his body ache with a dull pain.’
      • ‘His neck ached still, but the pain was very dull and was exceeded threefold by his leg.’
      • ‘His thigh muscles pulsed with dull pain from the unaccustomed effort of his one-and-a-half mile ride.’
      • ‘He felt a dull pain in his chest as he saw her face.’
      • ‘Classically, the pain is characterized as constant, dull and boring, and is worse when the patient is supine.’
      • ‘It's a dull ache rather than a pain and it's been there for a week.’
      • ‘I had a dull pain in my gut, but thought there was probably no big loss of blood as I was still conscious.’
    4. 2.4 (of an edge or blade) blunt.
      ‘a lot more people are cut with dull knives than with sharp ones’
      • ‘Using the dull edge of the knife blade, scrape the inside of the top shell in short movements going away from you.’
      • ‘A dull blade requires excessive force, can slip and cause accidents.’
      • ‘When the blade is dull, you can replace just the blade instead of buying a whole new clipper.’
      • ‘Blade sharpening is important, too, because dull edges will rip the grass open and leave vascular tissue vulnerable to disease.’
      • ‘First, she licks the knife she has been using to chop up the fruit, her lizard tongue running up and down the dull blade.’
      • ‘I rubbed the dull edge with my hand and held it out only a few inches from my face.’
      • ‘I'm sure I don't need to describe the cuts and nicks you get from using a dull blade.’
      • ‘Flick out the stinger by lifting it with a fingernail or scrape it off using the edge of a dull knife.’
      • ‘Using the dull edge of a knife, scrape any remaining innards from the body.’
      • ‘This is the first clue that your blade is dull or that you're over feeding the saw.’
      • ‘Then, using the blade changing key, you simply flip the dull blade around for a fresh edge.’
      • ‘Try removing as much of the label or tape as possible with your fingernail or the dull edge of a knife.’
      • ‘If you must shave, use plenty of shaving cream and a clean razor - dull blades will pull the skin along with the hair, irritating it further.’
      • ‘Most cooks use the point because the edge is dull.’
      • ‘Scrape the sides with a fish scaler or the dull edge of a knife to remove the scales.’
      • ‘She had an old, rusty push mower with steel wheels and dull blades, the kind you might see in a museum.’
      • ‘Remove excess soil promptly by blotting or scraping with a dull edge first.’
      • ‘Reaching over, he took the top envelope from the small pile, and with a mail opener sitting next to his bag, he opened it with a quick swipe of the dull blade.’
      • ‘In a moment he was holding the blade, being careful to grab the dull edge.’
      • ‘When the blade is dull, the end is simply broken off to reveal another sharp tip.’
      blunt, blunted, not sharp, unkeen, unsharpened, dulled, edgeless, worn down
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    5. 2.5 (of activity) sluggish or slow-moving.
      ‘gold closed lower in dull trading’
      • ‘I never kept a diary when I was growing up but I did receive them as Christmas presents and loved the idea of documenting my daily and dull doings.’
      • ‘It has to be said, this was a horrendously dull process.’
      slack, sluggish, flat, slow, slow-moving, quiet, inactive, static, stagnant, depressed
      sluggish, lethargic, enervated, unenergetic, listless, languid, torpid, inactive, inert, slow, slow-moving, sleepy, somnolent, drowsy, weary, tired, fatigued, heavy, apathetic
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  • 3(of a person) slow to understand; stupid.

    ‘the voice of a teacher talking to a rather dull child’
    • ‘Many parents do not understand Learning Disability and think the children are simply dull.’
    • ‘You have to understand, Saffron was not such a dull girl as she's probably worked herself up to be in your cold, critical eyes.’
    • ‘It was alleged that slower children were occasionally told to stay away from school on the inspection day and that some dull children were refused admittance to schools altogether.’
    • ‘It's as if he feared his students in the audience were too dull to get the point.’
    unintelligent, stupid, slow, dull-witted, slow-witted, witless, doltish, dunce-like, stolid, vacuous, empty-headed, brainless, mindless, foolish, half-witted, idiotic, moronic, imbecilic, cretinous, obtuse
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    1. 3.1archaic (of a person's senses) not perceiving things distinctly; insensitive.
      • ‘His vision, though dull and somewhat blurry, was recovering.’
      • ‘If I should accede one day to Heaven, it must be there as it is here, except that I will be rid of my dull senses and my heavy bones.’
      • ‘I am not particularly strong, I lack speed, my senses are dull in comparison, my eyesight sucks, my sense of smell and that of hearing are almost negligible.’
      • ‘In doing so, mankind has become callous and his senses have become dull to the ultimate pleasure this relationship would offer.’


  • Make or become dull or less intense.

    with object ‘time dulls the memory’
    no object ‘Albert's eyes dulled a little’
    • ‘After a while, the prickly feeling of anxiousness dulls and turns blunt.’
    • ‘I don't watch much televised football because I think it dulls my enthusiasm when I'm playing but I've always made an exception when it comes to Old Firm matches because they always throw up talking points.’
    • ‘The alcohol helped, dulled his memories and finally numbed them, as it always did.’
    • ‘Such conditioning dulls ambitions and makes managers defensive.’
    • ‘The ratio of one element to another was spot on, whetting the appetite, not dulling it.’
    • ‘It has a way of diminishing the shine, dulling the glamour and dampening the sizzle of even the glitziest of clubs.’
    • ‘Believe it or not, these are ironies we can learn a lot from, a useful exercise when the culture of consumption dulls us down as we absorb the season's greetings.’
    • ‘Not so much because it makes those whom it afflicts unhappy, or as myth has it, turn green, but because it dulls their analytical skills.’
    • ‘Alas, she has grown earnest, musically and spiritually conservative, dulling with the passing years.’
    • ‘Aesthetically, the palette manages something paradoxical: it both intensifies and dulls the impact of onscreen violence.’
    • ‘Alcohol dulls the brain, reduces reaction time and the law says very clearly that drinking and driving with a certain amount of it in your bloodstream is taboo.’
    • ‘It helps keep them warm for a while, and dulls the ruthless realities of their lives.’
    • ‘This proved to be extremely hot, possibly dulling my taste buds because I could not detect the fennel.’
    • ‘A flood of testosterone dulls the messages from their political antennae.’
    • ‘But mere faith and blind faith is dangerous: it dulls the brain, and makes a man reactionary.’
    • ‘The scale of the novel was what impressed initially but intimacy has not dulled its artistic achievements.’
    • ‘It is a narcotic that dulls the brain and deadens the nerves.’
    • ‘Memories of this incident in the west may have been dulled by the passage of time.’
    • ‘The shock value, which is what we're after, dulls after a while.’
    • ‘It seems to me that each act of sinning incrementally dulls the ability of an individual to see the sinfulness of the act.’
    lessen, decrease, diminish, reduce, dampen, depress, take the edge off, blunt, deaden, mute, soften, tone down, allay, ease, soothe, assuage, alleviate, palliate, moderate, mitigate
    numb, benumb, deaden, desensitize, render insensitive, stupefy, daze, stun
    fade, pale, bleach, wash out, decolorize, decolour, dim, etiolate
    darken, blacken, dim, blur, veil, obscure, shadow, fog
    dampen, put a damper on, cast a pall over, cast down, lower, depress, crush, shake, sap, suppress, extinguish, smother, stifle
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  • (as) dull as dishwater (or ditchwater)

    • Extremely dull.

      • ‘You have to shape what your people are doing as a breakthrough, even if it's actually dull as dishwater.’
      • ‘My option now is to use this boredom to concentrate more on the degree, although the latest book on animal rights is as dull as ditchwater now.’
      • ‘Hertfordshire South West was dull as ditchwater, Bedford was fairly bland and Suffolk South was a safe seat of the most tedious kind.’
      • ‘It was as dull as ditchwater compared to the East End proper.’
      • ‘The music is dull as dishwater, and you can barely notice when the song actually changes (if it does!).’
      • ‘Needless to say, it undoubtedly oozes discreet layers of sub-text, but like a lot of dialogue concealing deeply-hidden meanings, it's as dull as dishwater to read or hear unless it's artfully reinterpreted.’
      • ‘One of the reasons our politicians sound dull as dishwater is our laundry list style of communication.’
      • ‘So too in music we find relentlessly dreary conductors paid extravagant amounts for performances which are dull as dishwater.’
      • ‘The rest of the CD is dull as dishwater, and about as evil and terrifying.’
      • ‘Face it guys, anybody who gets more excited about carbon-dating than human dating has to be dull as ditchwater.’
      uninteresting, boring, tedious, tiresome, wearisome, dry, dry as dust, flat, bland, characterless, featureless, colourless, monotonous, unexciting, uninspiring, unstimulating, lacking variety, lacking variation, lacking excitement, lacking interest, unimaginative, uneventful, lifeless, soulless, insipid
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  • dull the edge of

    • Cause to be less keenly felt; reduce the intensity or effectiveness of.

      ‘she'd have to find something to dull the edges of the pain’
      • ‘He stopped seeing his friends quite so often, because she claimed that alcohol dulled the edge of his appetite for sex.’
      • ‘A life-threatening crash could not dull the edge of his commitment, and still he cannot walk away completely.’
      • ‘Living-wage laws close off low wages as a competitive strategy, dulling the edge of employer resistance to unions.’
      • ‘There's enough of the squishy stuff to dull the edge of the harshest road and make long rides tolerable to those with sensitive tail sections, and the nature of it lacks the overly mushy feel of some gel saddles.’
      • ‘Day after night after day, only sinking below an alpha state when the exhaustion and fatigue poisons were enough to dull the edge of the pain, the spasming muscles.’
      • ‘But it does dull the edge of keen minds, fooling those who really should know better.’
      • ‘In fact, his character is an example how overexposure dulls the edge of comedy.’
      • ‘However, vibrant as this movement was, the slow and insidious process of co-option began to dull the edge of militancy.’


Old English dol ‘stupid’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch dol ‘crazy’ and German toll ‘mad, fantastic, wonderful’.