I'm looking for a word to describe the sound coming from an air purifier. The purifier sucks in air through a filter, then blows the air back out of its top. The sound is similar to a quietly running air conditioner.

Similar words:

  • hum: the sound does not have a tone, it's very airy
  • hiss: the sound is not as high-pitched as a hiss
  • puff: puff describes a short release of air, but the sound is continuous.

I prefer a single English word, but a word from another language is okay if there is no english word to describe what I hear.

  • You could use purr, which is primarily the sound a contented cat makes, but it's also frequently used for smoothly-running machinery. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 21:33
  • 1
    What you are asking here is probably the onomatopoeia for the air. In French, I would say it is "fou" in continuous sound. In English, probably "swish" or "whoosh" (too strong tough). In an invented word, I would say "fsss" :)
    – Vega
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 7:53
  • 1
    I like fss or ssh to describe it. With sounds I think there is too much variation to find a word to describe each one precisely.
    – jet457
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


The closest single word I can think of is "whir," for which Oxford gives an example sentence of "the ceiling fans whirred in the smoky air."

If you're okay with multiple words, "white noise" is one option. One definition from Merriam Webster is "a constant background noise," and numerous examples can be found online of people referring to the noise created by fans (which is ultimately what's making the noise in the air purfifier) as such.

Other (longer) possibilities include phrases like "the sound of the breeze from the air purifier," but that's kind of unwieldy.

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