Definition of silent in US English:



  • 1Not making or accompanied by any sound.

    ‘the woods were still and silent’
    • ‘The approach to Broad Street was silent but for the sound of a beating drum.’
    • ‘The five minute car ride was silent all the way back to the hotel.’
    • ‘They were supposed to do a half-hour of silent reading and write about it, but only a handful brought books.’
    • ‘The room was completely silent for a moment.’
    • ‘Still the present silent ruins speak of their rich glorious past which we are all proud of.’
    • ‘The silent auction of 39 works raised more than $50,000 of the total.’
    • ‘The valley that had been echoing with battle cries, shouted orders and loud curses fell strangely silent.’
    • ‘The night was silent but for the sound of the raging storm moving closer.’
    • ‘The next morning I woke up to the sound of a silent house.’
    • ‘The room was completely silent other than the sound of dripping water from a corner of the room.’
    • ‘The classroom is silent except for the sound of crackling parchment paper and Lang's occasional suggestion.’
    • ‘Breakfast was almost silent; the only sound the clanking of the bowls.’
    • ‘They moved silently, without a sound, as silent as a butterfly.’
    • ‘The place was silent, the only sound to be heard coming from the kitchen where the cook readied the evening's fare before the after work rush started.’
    • ‘The room was silent, not the sound of breathing interrupted the quiet, not the sound of crickets, not even it seemed the wind outside the window.’
    • ‘He waved his hand slightly and the clock fell apart, its pieces clattering to the floor, adding sound to the once silent room.’
    • ‘After his departure there was silence from his lover - she didn't return letters and her phone was silent.’
    • ‘The cave was silent except for the sound of his own breathing.’
    • ‘The house was dead silent, the only sound Piper's feet on the stairs.’
    • ‘The courtyard was silent except for the sound of falling water, the fountain and the rain.’
    completely quiet, still, hushed, inaudible, noiseless, soundless, peaceful, tranquil, so quiet you could hear a pin drop
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    1. 1.1 (of a person) not speaking.
      ‘she fell silent for a moment’
      • ‘In fact, he writes that he offered to remain silent without even being asked.’
      • ‘You cannot fight fire with fire, was the implicit message of the silent crowds.’
      • ‘Chris fell silent, a shadow of doubt passing over his mind.’
      • ‘I was silent for a moment, thinking about what had happened.’
      • ‘They were silent for a few moments, while Toni sipped her hot chocolate.’
      • ‘Elected officials, he lectured, should not speak unthinkingly, but rather, when doubts exist, keep silent.’
      • ‘Vishnar strides into the centre of the bridge's walkway and shouts to the crew, who fall silent as he speaks.’
      • ‘Charles was silent for a moment as if lost in thought.’
      • ‘Keirah was silent, confusion written all over her pretty face.’
      • ‘Some were silent, others screamed aloud, and some just lay crying, but all appeared miserable.’
      • ‘I stayed silent for a long time looking over the letter again.’
      • ‘He was silent for several moments, staring into the grass.’
      • ‘‘I cannot remain silent and blindly support something which leaves doubts in me,’ he said.’
      • ‘She was too preoccupied with remaining insistently silent and had her mind set on the letter she was drafting to John.’
      • ‘This long-time silent passenger was now speaking with knowledge and authority.’
      • ‘Psychologically, it's much harder to convict a feeling, speaking person than a silent figure who might as well be made of wax.’
      • ‘I was silent for a moment, choosing my words carefully before I continued.’
      • ‘She remained silent, writing in her diary, which we read later while she wasn't there.’
      • ‘He was silent a moment, appearing to gather his thoughts.’
      • ‘The audience is silent one moment and filled with laughter the next.’
      speechless, quiet, unspeaking, wordless, voiceless, dumb, mute, taciturn, reticent, uncommunicative, unforthcoming, tight-lipped, close-mouthed, untalkative, tongue-tied, saying nothing, at a loss for words, struck dumb
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    2. 1.2 Not expressed aloud.
      ‘a silent prayer’
      • ‘He'd been toying with the idea since 1947, with a piece of music he called ‘A silent prayer.’’
      • ‘The relatives and close friends sit in the same room as the deceased and maintain a silent prayer vigil throughout the night until morning.’
      • ‘Mikah, dragged out of the room and into the hallway before he had time to protest, kept his doubts silent.’
      • ‘I sent a silent prayer for someone to watch over me.’
      • ‘More than 100 people congregated in the Westbury House Gardens, Bradford on Avon for an hour of silent prayer.’
      • ‘In the past hour he had been growing progressively weaker, subject to minutes of silent pain, and Falnec was getting more and more worried.’
      • ‘He argued such doubts after a few seconds of silent reflection.’
      • ‘A man was running, his mouth working silent screams of anguish and despair.’
      • ‘She sat with her knees together, hands clasped in silent prayer.’
      • ‘The New Year eve celebrations may be marked by glitzy electric displays and noisy parties at one end and silent prayers for peace and harmony at the other.’
      • ‘It is a common occurrence to see the fans of baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays shut their eyes, either in silent prayer or to escape the sight of another humbling defeat.’
      • ‘They made it sound so easy, yet Fox was filled with so many silent doubts.’
      • ‘After a moment of silent contemplation I realised that he was whispering my name.’
      • ‘However, this thought flitted away as quickly as it had come, settling back into a large, unobserved pile of silent doubts.’
      • ‘As he wrote, he gave silent thanks to the people who'd invented the helmet.’
      • ‘It was a day when silent thoughts spoke loudly and tears told their own sad story.’
      • ‘He buries his head in my shoulder, his own shaking with silent sobs.’
      • ‘She knew that this wasn't the safest thing in the world to do, but after saying a quick, silent prayer, she felt much more relaxed and safe.’
      • ‘As the kids and I huddled together on the floor in the basement I sent up a silent prayer of thanks that we were all safe and basically in good spirits.’
      • ‘Fann's 5th-grade child has often written down Chou's name in silent reminiscence.’
      unspoken, wordless, unsaid, unstated, undeclared, unexpressed, unmentioned, unpronounced, unvoiced, tacit, implicit, understood, implied, taken for granted
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    3. 1.3 (of a letter) written but not pronounced, e.g. b in doubt.
      • ‘The initial letter in Bart Goor's surname is silent.’
      • ‘This means they spell words the way that they sound, missing out silent letters and not following spelling rules.’
      • ‘The present study investigated how children spell words that contain silent consonants as their final letter.’
      • ‘If you flip it to level 2, all it does is put into a slightly fainter form, those letters that are silent, which is quite a handy little guide.’
      • ‘How do you spell a long word with silent letters?’
      • ‘Children and learners of the language are confused by the number of silent letters in Gaelic, especially those which are in the middle of words and which have no good reason to be there.’
    4. 1.4 (of a movie) without an accompanying soundtrack.
      • ‘I once watched a Fritz Lang silent film without music and my head ached for days.’
      • ‘Are there any other superhero creators that take their inspiration from French silent film star/director Max Linder?’
      • ‘The pacing is perfect - there's none of that long, drawn-out feeling one sometimes gets watching silent films.’
      • ‘The plot mechanics seem forced and even ludicrous at times, but the acting is generally restrained by silent film standards.’
      • ‘Still, the film succeeds often enough to be worth a look, especially for silent film buffs looking for those neglected classics.’
      • ‘This is a silent feature film starring Jackie Coogan, costar of Chaplin's 1921 masterpiece The Kid.’
      • ‘There were silent films and early talkies, most of them unspectacular.’
      • ‘Freed from the shackles of words and dialects, silent cinema spoke a universal language that all nations and all classes could understand.’
      • ‘Though most of the film was silent, when Al Jolson opened his mouth to sing, his own voice actually filled the theater.’
      • ‘Another intriguing tidbit concerns the gakudan, the musical group that accompanied silent films.’
      • ‘The evolution of popular music and artists appearing in film began when silent films depended on piano playing for audio appeal.’
      • ‘EbertFest has a tradition of showing great old silent films with live accompaniment.’
      • ‘Film buffs will also enjoy the experience of seeing one of the last two-strip Technicolor silent films.’
      • ‘Alexander Jacoby is a British film critic whose particular interests include Japanese cinema and silent film.’
      • ‘But Buster Keaton is the greatest silent film director/performer ever and one of the greatest film figures of all time.’
      • ‘He names silent film legend Buster Keaton as a major influence, and his expression is similarly poker-faced.’
      • ‘I cut the whole thing with a Moviscope, which is just a silent film viewer, and a pair of rewinds.’
      • ‘If you're at all interested in silent films or Greta Garbo, buy this collection.’
      • ‘Film stocks of the silent era were incapable of filming at night.’
      • ‘Intertitles, as well as pantomimed preludes and interludes, reminiscent of silent films, provide plot details and dialogue.’
    5. 1.5 Saying or recording nothing on a particular subject.
      ‘the poems are silent on the question of marriage’
      • ‘But despite more prodding from them, Eve remained silent on the subject.’
      • ‘The American media, however, has been all but silent on the subject.’
      • ‘The prosecution remains silent on the subject, choosing instead to deflect criticism to the defense.’
      • ‘He has been mysteriously silent on the subject of privatization.’
      • ‘First, the Justices said that the statute is not truly silent with respect to mental state.’
      • ‘But after taking time to consider the request, Mr. Kerik again decided to remain silent on the subject.’
      • ‘If the constitution is silent on a subject then it's up to parliament from time to time to deal with that subject or not to deal with it, as it thinks fit.’
      • ‘Fourth and finally, Lincoln denied that the Constitution was silent with respect to secession.’
      • ‘His mom has come around, entering counseling with him, but his father remains silent on the subject.’
      • ‘And they don't know because the media has been conspicuously silent on this topic.’
      • ‘The largest forced migration in human history has left a powerfully silent documentary record for historians to work from.’
      • ‘Ever since it gave the probe into what went wrong to two independent executives, the network has gone silent on the subject.’
      • ‘Arlan took the hint and fell silent on the subject until another time.’
      • ‘Brent kept silent on the subject, deciding he'd rather not know how such a feat was achieved.’
      • ‘‘He's a very good man,’ she repeated and Kate nodded, wisely remaining silent on the subject.’
      • ‘The governor simply required that he leave the country, and with that the record falls silent.’
      • ‘When we are silent in the face of accusation, the public sees us as guilty.’
      • ‘Wil has stayed curiously silent on the subject, and I think for such a prominent blogger he should at least acknowledge its existence.’
      • ‘Joyce and Johnston have been silent on the subject over the last 24 hours.’
      • ‘All I am concerned to do is to point out that, since the record is silent, one can devise various hypotheses to explain that silence.’
    6. 1.6 (of a person) not prone to speak much; taciturn.
      ‘I'm the strong, silent type’
      • ‘Writing in the New York Times, Marin speaks out for the silent minority of men who wait in hope for the patter of tiny feet.’
      • ‘I never once heard my uncle, a shy, silent man, speak of the manner in which his wife had died.’
      • ‘Additionally, there's that old saying that when a silent man speaks, wise men listen.’
      • ‘That makes me sound like the silent type, my desire to avoid conversation.’
      • ‘She couldn't believe that the ever silent Rebecca had actually spoken to her.’


  • the silent majority

    • The majority of people, regarded as holding moderate opinions but rarely expressing them.

      • ‘Could this pick up the protest vote from the silent majority?’
      • ‘A little restraint will also help to listen more carefully to the disquieting, but meaningful, silence of the silent majority.’
      • ‘‘This is a most regrettable decision and accepting the fact they have put the document out to publication, they have chosen to ignore the silent majority of patients,’ he said.’
      • ‘We've been called the silent majority but the key word here is majority.’
      • ‘This now begs the question, is it time for the silent majority to get off the fence and let its voice be heard?’
      • ‘They are the silent majority who have never spoken until now.’
      • ‘Fleming laments that existing surveys and studies have documented something about the vocal minority, but almost nothing about the silent majority.’
      • ‘So no one knows what the silent majority really thinks.’
      • ‘They might not be the silent majority, but they are quite possibly a substantial minority who just might decide this election.’
      • ‘However his experience suggests that noise nuisance is no longer being tolerated - and that is excellent news for the silent majority.’
  • the silent treatment

    • A stubborn refusal to talk to someone, especially after a recent argument or disagreement.

      • ‘Try something like, ‘I've noticed you give Jen the silent treatment when she comes over.’’
      • ‘I figure one of us should be mature and cancel the silent treatment before the end of the year.’
      • ‘Although her father is not speaking to her and avoiding her calls, Olivia believes that he is too concerned about being the perfect father for him to give her the silent treatment for long.’
      • ‘He is infuriated and gives her the silent treatment all the way home, but she doesn't notice.’
      • ‘I won't give people the silent treatment, but I'll give them the ‘one word response’ treatment until I can calm down enough to have a discussion, or even a fight about the situation at hand.’
      • ‘She had ignored all of my phone calls last night, and I knew that today I would definitely receive the silent treatment.’
      • ‘As I write, he's giving me the silent treatment.’
      • ‘Tell someone why you're angry instead of giving them the silent treatment.’
      • ‘A Malton man and his wife were having problems and were giving each other the silent treatment.’
      • ‘My moms been giving me the silent treatment since we fought, it's been days now and I have given her tons of apologies but she just seems to ignore me totally.’


Late 15th century (in the sense ‘not speaking’): from Latin silent- ‘being silent’, from the verb silere.