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See also: NUMB



From the past participle of nim (to take). Compare German benommen (dazed, numb). The final ⟨b⟩ is a later addition to the spelling; it was never pronounced, and did not appear in the original word.


  • enPR: nŭm, IPA(key): /nʌm/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌm


numb (comparative number, superlative numbest)

  1. Physically unable to feel, not having the power of sensation.
    fingers numb with cold
    legs numb from kneeling
    Synonyms: deadened, insensible
  2. Emotionally unable to feel or respond in a normal way.
    numb with shock; numb with boredom
    • 1915, Nellie McClung, chapter 2, in In Times Like These[1], Toronto: McLeod & Allen:
      [] when we know that hundreds are rendered homeless every day, and countless thousands are killed and wounded, men and boys mowed down like a field of grain, and with as little compunction, we grow a little bit numb to human misery.
    • 1966, Truman Capote, In Cold Blood[2], New York: Modern Library, published 1992, Part One, p. 77:
      [] seeing the dog—somehow that made me feel again. I’d been too dazed, too numb, to feel the full viciousness of it.
    • 2016, Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time[3], Random House Canada, Part Three:
      [] he submitted [] as a traitor, his mind numb with vodka, submits to a firing squad.
    Synonym: stunned
  3. (obsolete) Causing numbness.


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numb (third-person singular simple present numbs, present participle numbing, simple past and past participle numbed)

  1. (transitive) To cause to become numb (physically or emotionally).
    Synonym: benumb
    The dentist gave me novocaine to numb my tooth before drilling, thank goodness.
    When I first heard the news, I was numbed by the shock.
    • 2020 April 22, “Letters: Open Access: Not easy for laptops”, in Rail, page 31:
      But her main concern is the hard seating that numbs the nether regions.
  2. (transitive) To cause (a feeling) to be less intense.
    Synonym: dull
    He turned to alcohol to numb his pain.
    • 1861, Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Grey Woman”, in The Grey Woman and Other Tales[4], London: Smith, Elder & Co.:
      [I was] thankful for the pain, which helped to numb my terror.
  3. (transitive) To cause (the mind, faculties, etc.) to be less acute.
    Synonym: dull
    • 1912, Saki, “The Hounds of Fate”, in The Chronicles of Clovis[5], London: John Lane, page 219:
      [] hunger, fatigue, and despairing hopelessness had numbed his brain []
    • 1927, Hugh Lofting, Doctor Dolittle’s Garden[6], Part Four, Chapter 6:
      The noise, the rush of air past our ears, was positively terrific. It actually seemed to numb the senses and make it almost impossible to take in impressions at all.
    • 2004, Cory Doctorow, chapter 13, in Eastern Standard Tribe[7]:
      [The sofa] exhaled a breath of trapped ancient farts, barf-smell, and antiseptic, the parfum de asylum that gradually numbed my nose to all other scents on the ward.
  4. (intransitive) To become numb (especially physically).
    • 1918, Lewis R. Freeman, “Wonders of the Teleferica”, in Many Fronts[8], London: John Murray, page 270:
      [] after fumbling with numbing fingers for ten or fifteen minutes, he waved his hand with a gesture of despair []
    • 1919, Arthur Murray Chisholm, chapter 18, in The Land of Strong Men[9], New York: H.K. Fly:
      [] once more his feet began to numb. Again he got down and stamped the circulation going, but as soon as he began to ride again they numbed.

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