Definition of mutism in US English:



  • 1Inability to speak, typically as a result of congenital deafness or brain damage.

    • ‘Damage can occur to the basal ganglia or to the frontal lobes (behind the brow) which control initiation of speech, causing mutism when damaged.’
    1. 1.1 Unwillingness or refusal to speak, arising from psychological causes such as depression or trauma.
      • ‘Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that is usually specific to certain settings, such as a school classroom.’
      • ‘A 14-year-old boy with a pre-existing history of autism exhibited stupor with mutism, akinesia, rigidity, waxy flexibility, posturing, facial grimacing and involuntary movements of the upper extremities.’
      • ‘Others suffered from psychoneurotic symptoms alone - mutism, loss of speech, hysterical twitching, and uncontrollable jerkings of arms and legs.’
      • ‘Some were 9 and practiced selective mutism; they chose to not talk - to not say one word ever - during school.’
      • ‘Selective mutism would manifest only in particular social situations rather than globally.’


Early 19th century: from French mutisme, from Latin mutus ‘mute’.