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What's in-between silence and clamor? Sometimes, in a room for example, there's no sound except 1 person talking at times, do we still refer to that as silence. If not, what is it called? I suppose it's something between silence and clamor, but I can't think of a word? Is there a word that means almost-silence or the state of being able to hear a sound distinctly while hearing nothing else?

  • I wonder if you know what clamour means? To me, silence and clamour are at opposite ends of the spectrum, so the quick answer to your question as written is: everything. – Mike Brockington Jul 8 at 15:46
13

Which word you choose depends on the quality of the sound in the room. For example:

murmur (n): a low, continuous sound, as of a brook, the wind, or trees, or of low, indistinct voices.

Other options: buzz, hum, mutter, rumble, fizz, hiss, whir, ping, splash, whisper, babble, drone, and a few more less common words like sibilation or susurration.

You might find this interesting: Writers Write: 106 Ways To Describe Sounds

(Edit_1) You may also use modifiers to adjust the relative volume of these kind of words. This gives a wider range of possible descriptors. Examples:

a loud hum

a muted roar

s sharp hiss

(Edit) Xerxes makes the fair point that none of these really describe the source of a "distinct" sound, such as "the sound of one person talking in a room". There is no single word to describe this, since of course, any kind of sound might be produced by any number of sources. In writing, it's fine to separately describe the quality of the sound and the source of the sound:

Through the wall he could distinctly hear the murmur of Jessica discussing the latest gossip with her friends, although, try as he might, he could not make out any details.

  • This is not correct, since the question specifies that the sound is able to be heard distinctly. A murmur by definition is indistinct. – Xerxes Jul 8 at 14:03
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    @Xerxes On the contrary! A murmur -- like a hum, or a babble -- is a distinct kind of sound, often made up of a number of indistinct sounds. You can distinctly hear someone droning on in another room, even if you can't distinguish the words. But, then again, I suppose it all depends on what blackbird meant by "distinct". It's a fair point. – Andrew Jul 8 at 15:38
7

There is the concept of background noise. Although this phrase has a technical meaning when it comes to audio recordings and signal processing, that expression can also be used colloquially; it is defined by some dictionaries as:

background noise (noun)

  • any type of noise that is not the sound that you are specifically listening to or monitoring (Collins)
  • noise that can be heard in addition to the main thing you are listening to (Macmillan)

Wikipedia has an entry for it, which says:

Background noise or ambient noise is any sound other than the sound being monitored (primary sound).

Examples of background noises are environmental noises such as waves, traffic noise, alarms, people talking, noise from animals or birds, and mechanical noise from devices such as refrigerators, air conditioners, power supplies, or motors.

If you are not paying attention to something else in the room, you can focus on the background noise and hear it distinctly.

4

"Silence" is complete absence of sound. If there is the sound of a person talking, even quietly, it wouldn't be called silence.

"Quiet" could also be interpreted to mean silence, but usually "quiet" would include an environment with a low level of sound. I think one person talking at a time, in a soft voice, would be accepted by most people as an example of "quiet".

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I don't believe there is a single English word suitable to this purpose. I would use a short phrase to add an exception to "silent". For example: "silent but for a single voice" or "all was still except for the tapping of the hammer" or "a shrill, clear note broke the silence".

  • This is a fair point. I actually had trouble coming up with a single word to describe something like "the sound of one person talking in a room", until I reframed the question with ways to describe the quality of the sound, rather than its exact source. – Andrew Jul 8 at 15:45
0

Clamor to be a mixture of enviro, mechanical, biological-based noise of the muted kind.

A quick mind map of the answers given above: mind map

  • 1
    The OP asks, "What's in between silence and clamor?" I'm still a little unsure of how this mind map answers that question. – J.R. Jul 9 at 13:44
  • Updated map to show difference between the two words – John Greene Jul 12 at 13:35

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