From Middle English dumb (“silent, speechless, mute, ineffectual”), from Old English dumb (“silent, speechless, mute, unable to speak”), from Proto-West Germanic *dumb, from Proto-Germanic *dumbaz (“dull, dumb”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰewbʰ- (“to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure”).
The senses of stupid, unintellectual, and pointless, which are found regularly since the 19th century only, probably developed under the influence of German dumm and Dutch dom. Just like the English word, these originally meant "lacking the power of speech", but they developed the mentioned senses early on.
- (dated) Unable to speak; lacking power of speech (kept in "deaf, dumb, and blind").
- Synonyms: mute, speechless, wordless
- His younger brother was born dumb, and communicated with sign language.
- 1992, “Opiate”, performed by Tool:
- Deaf and blind and dumb and born to follow / What you need is someone strong to guide you
- (dated) Silent; unaccompanied by words.
- dumb show
- 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene iv]:
- Since you are tongue-tied and so loath to speak
In dumb significants proclaim your thoughts
- 1788, Mary Wollstonecraft, chapter 2, in Original Stories from Real Life (Children's literature), London: J. Johnson, published 1796, pages 10–11:
- The country people frequently ſay,—How can you treat a poor dumb beaſt ill; and a ſtreſs is very properly laid on the word dumb; for dumb they appear to thoſe who do not obſerve their looks and geſtures; but God, who takes care of every thing, underſtands their language...
- 1881, John Campbell Shairp, Aspects of Poetry:
- to pierce into the dumb past
- (informal, derogatory, especially of a person) Extremely stupid.
- (figuratively) Pointless, foolish, lacking intellectual content or value.
- Lacking brightness or clearness, as a colour.
- 1720, Daniel Defoe, The Life, Adventures and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton:
- Her stern, which was painted of a dumb white or dun color.
- a dumb priest never got a parish
- deaf and dumb
- dumb as a bag of hammers
- dumb as a box of rocks
- dumb as a brick
- dumb as a doorknob
- dumb as a doornail
- dumb as an ox
- dumb as a post
- dumb as a rock
- dumb as a sack of hammers
- dumb as a stump
- dumb as dirt
- dumb as nails
- dumb ass
- dumb barge
- dumb blond
- dumb bomb
- dumb bunny
- dumb cake
- dumb cancel
- dumb cane
- dumb cluck
- dumb crambo
- dumb cunt
- dumb fuck
- dumb fucker
- dumb genius
- dumb hole
- dumb insolence
- dumb like a fox
- dumb luck
- dumb money
- dumb muscle
- dumb network
- dumb out
- dumb piano
- dumb pipe
- dumb quotes
- dumb shit
- dumb show
- dumb spinet
- dumb tax
- dumb TV
- dumb waiter
- strike dumb
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
From Middle English dumben, from Old English dumbian (more commonly in compound ādumbian (“to become mute or dumb; keep silence; hold one’s peace”)), from Proto-Germanic *dumbijaną, *dumbōną (“to be silent, become dumb”), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰewbʰ- (“to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure”). Cognate with German verdummen (“to become dumb”).
- (dated) To silence.
- 1911, Lindsay Swift, William Lloyd Garrison, page 272:
- The paralysis of the Northern conscience, the dumbing of the Northern voice, were coming to an end.
- (transitive) To make stupid.
- 2003, Angela Calabrese Barton, Teaching Science for Social Justice, page 124:
- I think she's dumbing us down, so we won't be smarter than her.
- (transitive) To represent as stupid.
- 2004, Stephen Oppenheimer, The Real Eve: Modern Man's Journey Out of Africa, page 107:
- Bad-mouthing Neanderthals . . . is symptomatic of a need to exclude and even demonize. . . . I suggest that the unproven dumbing of the Neanderthals is an example of the same cultural preconception.
- (transitive) To reduce the intellectual demands of.
- 2002, Deborah Meier, In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing, page 126:
- The ensuing storm caused the department to lower the bar—amid protests that this was dumbing the test down—so that only 80 percent of urban kids would fail.
dumb (plural and weak singular dumbe)
- Lacking or failing to display the faculty of voice:
- Powerless, ineffectual (either inherently or due to events)
- Unknowledgeable; having no understanding or sense.
- (of animals) Unwilling or unable to make a noise; quiet or silent.
- (rare) Unrevealing, useless; having no important messages or lessons.
- (rare) Having nothing to keep one busy or engaged.
- (rare, figurative) Refusing to preach or evangelise.
- (rare, figurative) Refusing to be conceited or vainglorious.
- “dǒmb, dǒumb, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 2019-04-27.
- mute, dumb (unable to speak)
- (substantive) a mute