adjective, deaf·er, deaf·est.

  1. partially or wholly lacking or deprived of the sense of hearing; unable to hear.
  2. refusing to listen, heed, or be persuaded; unreasonable or unyielding: deaf to all advice.
  3. (initial capital letter) of or relating to the Deaf or their cultural community: Deaf customs and values.

noun (used with a plural verb)

  1. deaf persons collectively (usually preceded by the): social services for the deaf.
  2. (initial capital letter) deaf persons who identify themselves as members of a community composed of deaf persons and others who share in their culture (usually preceded by the).


    1. partially or totally unable to hear
    2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the deaf See also tone-deaf
  1. refusing to heeddeaf to the cries of the hungry

Old English deaf “deaf,” also “empty, barren,” specialized from Proto-Germanic *daubaz (cf. Old Saxon dof, Old Norse daufr, Old Frisian daf, Dutch doof “deaf,” German taub, Gothic daufs “deaf, insensate”), from PIE dheubh-, which was used to form words meaning “confusion, stupefaction, dizziness” (cf. Greek typhlos “blind).

The word was pronounced to rhyme with reef until 18c. Deaf-mute is from 1837, after French sourd-muet. Deaf-mutes were sought after in 18c.-19c. Britain as fortune-tellers. Deaf as an adder (Old English) is from Psalms lviii:5.


  1. Partially or completely lacking in the sense of hearing.
  2. Deaf Of or relating to the Deaf or their culture.


  1. Deaf people considered as a group.
  2. Deaf The community of deaf people who use American Sign Language as a primary means of communication.

In addition to the idiom beginning with deaf

  • deaf as a post

also see:

  • fall on deaf ears
  • stone deaf
  • turn a deaf ear

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