How do you call this sound over the phone when you are calling someone, but they don't reply. Can the word beep used? For examlpe:

I was trying to put through to Mike, but I heard only a series of beeps.

  • Note: we would say "they don't answer" rather than "they don't reply". Oct 23, 2019 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


The word used to describe the different sounds made by telephones is "tones".

When making an outgoing call, the sound you hear while it rings at the other end is called the ringing tone (or sometimes the ringback tone).

The other different tones you hear are the engaged tone, or the busy tone (when the person you are calling is already on a call); and the dialling tone (when you first pick up the receiver, before you begin to dial).

  • 1
    In UK 'ring tone' is common, although this is sometimes used to refer to the sound a mobile phone makes when an incoming call is received. Oct 23, 2019 at 10:47
  • @MichaelHarvey Good point about mobile phones, but I don't ever recall "ring tone" being used before mobiles. I was born in the UK in the 1970s.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 23, 2019 at 12:50

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