The "mmm" I'm referring to, is the sound you make when you're thinking. Can that be described as humming? If not, what word to use?

Here is an example sentence:

She hummed like a phone line going dead, then she said, "I know!" (meaning that she was saying mmmmmm before she spoke.)

  • 5
    I am wondering why you are asking another question when an earlier question of yours has comments with ~20 upvotes asking for further clarification. Why not take care of that one first?
    – J.R.
    Aug 2, 2018 at 12:55
  • Is the "mmm" used in a conversation before responding to somebody's question? How long does it last? What's the actual context in which it appears? Aug 2, 2018 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


Fun fact, etymologically, the word "to hum" is believed to have drawn its existence ultimately as the result of the sound being imitated.

hum (v.)

late 14c., hommen "make a murmuring sound to cover embarrassment," later hummen "to buzz, drone" (early 15c.), probably of imitative origin.

This is more obvious when one uses the standard onomatopoeic transcription, which is "hmm". "Hmm" and "hum", I'm sure you can see the connection.

So yes, it absolutely can be described as a hum.

  • 1
    +1 for pointing out that this is typically spelled with an h rather than with three or more m's. (The version with all m's is more likely to be used when transcribing a remark about delicious food.)
    – J.R.
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:15

Yes, the sound you are referring to is called humming.

The on-line Oxford Dictionary has two definitions for 'hum' as a noun.

1/ A low, steady continuous sound. 2/ Used to express hesitation or dissent. Oxford - Hum

This second definition fits well with your 'the sound you make when you're thinking'. This definition is also related to the phrase 'to hum and haw' (sometimes written as 'to hem and haw'), which means that someone is being indecisive. This phrase relates to the sounds 'mmm' and 'awww' that people sometimes make when they are in deep thought about something. The phrase has moved beyond these sounds and is more commonly used for the process of discussing a decision in depth to avoid having to come to a decision.

The main difference between the sound we make when we are thinking and the sound we make when humming a song is that when we hum a song we frequently change the pitch and volume of our hum to match that of the song or music. When we hum as we are thinking we usually maintain an almost constant pitch and volume.

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