Definition of silence in US English:



  • 1Complete absence of sound.

    ‘sirens pierce the silence of the night’
    ‘an eerie silence descended over the house’
    • ‘There was no wind rushing past his body, only eerie silence as he descended at breakneck speed.’
    • ‘I'D NEVER truly heard the sound of silence before - and let me tell you, it's an eerie experience.’
    • ‘Suddenly, the distant sound of sirens pierced the silence as the sound approached closer to the house.’
    • ‘Her fingers found the edge of the door without her consent; the dull, hushed sounds of secretive whispers somehow pierced the airy silence.’
    • ‘She got up slowly and walked along the hallway, and for some reason she was glad of the eerie silence and peacefulness.’
    • ‘Some scenes are hampered by an eerie tinny sound during moments of silence.’
    • ‘Nor was it truly noise, because if it were noise, then it could cease, and that cessation of sound would be silence.’
    • ‘In this setting, however, the usual silence sounded like the correlate of boundless, nearly empty space.’
    • ‘You haven't heard the sound of true absolute silence since 1977, and when you did, it terrified you.’
    • ‘DJs are forced to work with a limited palette, their only two tools being sound and silence.’
    • ‘Quietly, but determinedly, she began to strum the low, bass notes of the guitar, its deep strain sounding in the empty silence.’
    • ‘The only sounds breaking the silence of the night were our footsteps, along with our shallow breathing.’
    • ‘Instead, his students created tiny theatre exercises, starting with silence and gradually adding sound.’
    • ‘The acoustics of the Music Centre will be excellent, including high quality of sound in each studio, and high standards for silence and absence of intrusion.’
    • ‘Unlocking the main door, I step in, taking off my shoes, despite the eerie silence, despite the fear caused by the absence of lights in the hall.’
    • ‘They rode in almost complete silence just enjoying the sounds of the summer night.’
    • ‘There is silence, then the sound of one pair of Hands applauding.’
    • ‘The most underrated element in modern cinema is the sound of silence.’
    • ‘After a day of silence, the sounds outside descend upon the ears in a symphonic scale.’
    • ‘A week in the high desert country of the Wind River Range, with time for silence and solitude, sounded just about right.’
    quietness, quiet, quietude, still, stillness, hush, tranquillity, noiselessness, soundlessness, peace, peacefulness, peace and quiet
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    1. 1.1 The fact or state of abstaining from speech.
      ‘Karen had withdrawn into sullen silence’
      ‘she was reduced to silence for a moment’
      • ‘They sat in silence for a moment, and this silence was uncomfortable.’
      • ‘They flew in silence for a long time after that, nothing but the hum of their engines disrupting the silence.’
      • ‘No one around you likes you so they're hoping their silence will prove that fact and you'll go away.’
      • ‘I turned and looked at the ground where Jared lay in silence but his silence was broken every few seconds with spasms of laughter.’
      • ‘They rode in silence, Cora's a happy and blissful silence, Arlan's a sulky, resentful silence.’
      • ‘They drove home in silence, neither really knowing what to say to the other and Jinx not bothering to break the silence.’
      • ‘The way she said it told William that she had closed any further discussion about it, so silence, once again, filled their ears.’
      • ‘We drove to my house in silence, well silence from our mouths but not from the radio.’
      • ‘They were riding along in silence for a few moments, then Alia broke the silence.’
      • ‘In fact there was silence until the Earl of Strathmore came in with two dark-haired young men dressed in morning suits.’
      • ‘They continued again in silence again, but it was a comfortable, companionable silence.’
      • ‘The member did ask to be heard in silence, so therefore there should be silence.’
      • ‘After sitting in silence and enjoying the re - heated meal, Anthony broke the silence with a most unusual question.’
      • ‘In several other poems, he expresses a similar ambivalence, between silence and speech, action and passivity.’
      • ‘They ate in silence, until Mollie, full to bursting with unanswered questions, broke the silence.’
      • ‘Her silence after the speech was utterly different than her silence before the speech.’
      • ‘I don't know how long we sat there in silence, but our silence said so much.’
      • ‘He stared at the door in silence now, then when the silence began to trouble him he hurried back to his quarters.’
      • ‘In fact, the awkward silence lasted until I took Jessie's advice and dumped Marie a block away from the party.’
      • ‘They sat in silence for a long time until Devin finally broke the silence.’
      speechlessness, wordlessness, voicelessness, dumbness, muteness
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    2. 1.2 The avoidance of mentioning or discussing something.
      ‘politicians keep their silence on the big questions’
      • ‘But one of the things that of course was quite haunting about all this silence was the fact that the story of his father was not really present in his life as he grew up.’
      • ‘Was not the official government silence deafening on this matter of security?’
      • ‘The alternative is silence: secrecy when self-imposed, censorship when imposed by others.’
      • ‘Please explain as your secrecy and silence is creating a crescendo of innuendo.’
      • ‘Although it occurred some two or three weeks ago, the local police have maintained a stony silence with respect to the theft.’
      • ‘In a rare reference teams are mentioned pejoratively for their potential contribution to a culture of silence and resistance through norms of loyalty.’
      • ‘The expert has so far kept his silence, despite being under massive pressure to discuss his findings in recent weeks.’
      • ‘So far there's been only silence from the big three networks, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.’
      • ‘By their silence, both parties also conveyed to big business that, if elected, they would not oppose further restructuring.’
      • ‘Their silence and secrecy worried Marc, and he wondered if something had happened.’
      • ‘His silence cannot hide the fact that this war represents a profound turning point in international relations.’
      • ‘This silence is no big deal to her, because she knows she will phone when she feels like it and I will be there.’
      • ‘But none of this excuses the fact that Hollywood's silence is deafening.’
      • ‘It is implied that the truth has been withheld, and that silence has prevailed where speech should have occurred.’
      • ‘In the presence of official silence, the facts alleged gain credibility.’
      • ‘As Brandeis put it, ‘the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.’’
      • ‘The big silence that we spoke about means that they did not really understand.’
      • ‘The silence of politicians to this scandal is astounding.’
      • ‘On that note, the silence from politicians and pundits is deafening.’
      • ‘Kimmitt could create credibility for the investigation with patient silence until the facts emerge.’
      secretiveness, secrecy, reticence, taciturnity, uncommunicativeness, concealment
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    3. 1.3 The state of standing still and not speaking as a sign of respect for someone deceased or in an opportunity for prayer.
      ‘a moment of silence presided over by a local minister’
      • ‘The NFL flew flags at half-mast and held a moment of silence in memory of White.’
      • ‘Bolton, along with other towns and cities across the country, will observe a three-minute silence at noon tomorrow.’
      • ‘Some shops are also planning to shut down as a mark of respect, while others are considering a two-minute silence at 11.30 am.’
      • ‘As we sat in the departure lounge at the airport there was a national moment of silence to honor the dead.’
      • ‘A short silence in memory of the tsunami victims was observed at the start of the January meeting.’
      • ‘The House observed two-minute silence in memory of the children.’
      • ‘The proceedings included a poignant silence in memory of former colleagues who had died.’


[with object]
  • 1Cause to become silent; prohibit or prevent from speaking.

    ‘the team's performance silenced their critics’
    ‘freedom of the press cannot be silenced by tanks’
    • ‘Masters is confident that their debut album will silence critics who have accused their singles of sounding weak.’
    • ‘If there were ever doubt that he can be an amazing actor, this movie will silence his critics.’
    • ‘This has purchased him more time, and will silence his critics.’
    • ‘He urgently needs a fresh mandate in order to silence his critics.’
    • ‘McCann pointed to his company's track record to silence critics.’
    • ‘However, that has failed to silence critics who claim that the judge's credibility has been damaged and that he must go.’
    • ‘Many corporations are using defamation laws as a cheap and convenient way to silence their critics.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, I doubt whether such reassurances will silence the critics.’
    • ‘This was not the first time that the paper tried to silence critics.’
    • ‘Essentially the government's aim is to restrict freedom of the press in order to silence any voice of criticism, no matter how faltering.’
    • ‘But over the Easter period his team have come up with two smashing victories which will have gone a long way to silencing the critics.’
    • ‘His answer is as refreshing as it has been, by his account, effective in silencing the critics.’
    • ‘The four-minute mile was the kind of achievement that would silence critics, and prove to the athlete that he deserved to be called the best.’
    • ‘He could silence many of his critics by playing consistently - as he did last spring.’
    • ‘Threatening to sue in order to silence a critic has simply spread the criticism much, much farther.’
    • ‘To become a fluent writer, she argues, one must silence the critic early in the process.’
    • ‘So will these studies be enough to silence the company's critics?’
    • ‘Instead of silencing his critics, it's more likely to provide them with further ammunition.’
    • ‘The 4-0 performance was also one Parsley hopes will silence the critics.’
    • ‘And the best way to silence critics is by scoring consistently and never changing.’
    quieten, quiet, hush, shush, still
    stop, put an end to, put a stop to, cut short, suppress
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    1. 1.1usually as adjective silenced Fit (a gun or other loud mechanism) with a silencer.
      ‘a silenced .22 rifle’
      • ‘He had just silenced the gun when he was killed instantly by a burst from a machine pistol.’
      • ‘The noise signature has been reduced with engine and exhaust silencing systems.’
      muffle, deaden, soften, mute, smother, dampen, damp down, tone down, mask, suppress, reduce, abate
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  • in silence

    • Without speech or other sound.

      ‘we finished our meal in silence’
      • ‘He eased the Fokker around and they flew in silence, each busy with his own thoughts.’
      • ‘We ate in silence except for the sound of crunching of chips and slurping of drinks.’
      • ‘He would think in silence, at meals or in bed or during a walk, sometimes jotting an idea down on a piece of paper.’
      • ‘Shops on the route were advised to close while the throng walked in silence or softly sang for peace.’
      • ‘Rather than seek help for bullying, they choose to keep quiet and suffer in silence.’
      • ‘So I turned back to the window, and watched in silence as the drama continued to unfold.’
      • ‘Pupils unable to sit still in a classroom for more than five minutes will work in silence on the computers.’
      • ‘We both sat in silence and waited for what seemed to be about an hour for him to come out.’
      • ‘There are many more families who are suffering in silence because of this hidden problem.’
      • ‘We drove in silence for a while, and I made a point of sighing at every red light.’


Middle English: from Old French, from Latin silentium, from silere ‘be silent’.