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See also: Deaf



From Middle English deef, from Old English dēaf, from Proto-West Germanic *daub, from Proto-Germanic *daubaz, from Proto-Indo-European *dʰewbʰ- (to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure). Cognate with Ancient Greek τυφλός (tuphlós, blind). See also dumb.



deaf (comparative deafer, superlative deafest)

  1. Unable to hear, or only partially able to hear.
    My brother has been deaf since sustaining injuries in the war.
    It's important for TV shows to provide closed captioning for the deaf.
  2. Unwilling to listen or be persuaded; determinedly inattentive; regardless.
    Those people are deaf to reason.
  3. Of or relating to the community of deaf people.
    • 1994, Bruce N. Snider; Carol Erting; Robert C. Johnson, The Deaf Way, page 734:
      The best place to fight Hollywood deafism is in our deaf schools. If we give our children understanding and appreciation of our rich culture and sign language, the students will gain a deaf heritage and become more creative, more aware, and more assertive global deaf citizens.
  4. (obsolete) Obscurely heard; stifled; deadened.
  5. (obsolete, UK, dialect) Decayed; tasteless; dead.
    a deaf nut; deaf corn


Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]


deaf (plural deafs)

  1. (nonstandard, rare) A deaf person.
    • 1897, József Jekelfalussy, The Millennium of Hungary and Its People[2], page 347:
      Among the second group of philanthropic educational institutions the institutes for the deafs and dumbs must be mentioned.
    • 1980, Cao Van Vien, Van Khuyen Dong, Reflections on the Vietnam War[3]:
      Negotiations for South Vietnam's political future and the enforcement of cease-fire between two sides progressed like a conversation between two deafs.
    • 2014, Chelsea Handler, My Horizontal Life[4], →ISBN:
      "I work with the blind mostly. Some deafs too," I told her.
    • 2015, Judith Richards, The Sounds of Silence[5], →ISBN:
      Two deafs did not always make deaf babies.

Usage notes[edit]

Used primarily within the deaf community.



deaf (third-person singular simple present deafs, present participle deafing, simple past and past participle deafed)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To deafen.
    • 1634, John Fletcher & William Shakespeare, Two Noble Kinsmen:
      It is enough, my hearing shall be punish'd With what shall happen, -- 'gainst the which there is No deafing -- but to hear, not taint mine eye With dread sights that it may shun.
    • 1681, John Dryden, “Canace to Macareus”, in Ovid, Ovid’s Epistles, [], 2nd edition, London: [] Jacob Tonson [], →OCLC, page 13:
      Swift as a Whirl-wind to the Nurſe he flies; / And deafs his ſtormy Subjects with his cries.
    • 1871, Charlse Hindlley, A Kicksey Winsey: Or a Lerry Come-Twang:
      Shall we, I say, that have been so long civil and wealthy in peace, famous and invincible in war, fortunate in both, we that have been ever able to aid any of our neighbours (but never deafed any of their ears with any of our supplications for assistance) shall we, I say, without blushing, abase ourselves so far, as to imitate these beastly Indians, slaves to the Spaniards, refuse to the world, and as yet aliens from the holy covenant of God?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hall, Joseph Sargent (March 2, 1942), “1. The Vowel Sounds of Stressed Syllables”, in The Phonetics of Great Smoky Mountain Speech (American Speech: Reprints and Monographs; 4), New York: King's Crown Press, →DOI, →ISBN, § 4, page 21.


Old English[edit]


From Proto-West Germanic *daub.

Germanic cognates include Old Frisian dāf, Old Saxon dōf (Low German dow), Old High German toub (German taub), Old Norse daufr (Swedish döv). The Indo-European root is also the source of Greek τυφλός (tyflós, blind).




  1. deaf



  • Middle English: deef, def
    • English: deaf
    • Scots: deef, deif, deaf