1. One who does not speak, whether from physical inability, unwillingness, or other cause. Specifically: One who, from deafness, either congenital or from early life, is unable to use articulate language; a deaf-mute.
A person employed by undertakers at a funeral.
2. A letter which represents no sound; a silent letter; also, a close articulation; an element of speech formed by a position of the mouth organs which stops the passage of the breath; as, p, b, d, k, t.
3. A little utensil made of brass, ivory, or other material, so formed that it can be fixed in an erect position on the bridge of a violin, or similar instrument, in order to deaden or soften the tone.
Mute, Silent, Dumb. One is silent who does not speak; one is dumb who can not, for want of the proper organs; as, a dumb beast, etc.; and hence, figuratively, we speak of a person as struck dumb with astonishment, etc. One is mute who is held back from speaking by some special cause; as, he was mute through fear; mute astonishment, etc. Such is the case with most of those who never speak from childhood; they are not ordinarily dumb, but mute because they are deaf, and therefore never learn to talk; and hence their more appropriate name is deaf-mutes. "They spake not a word; But, like dumb statues, or breathing stones, Gazed each on other." (Shak) "All sat mute, Pondering the danger with deep thoughts." (Milton)
Origin: L. Mutus; cf. Gr. To shut, Skr. Mta bound, mka dumb: cf. OE. Muet, fr. F. Muet, a dim. Of OF. Mu, L. Mutus.
(01 Mar 1998)
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