Loud / quiet / silent

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Music can be loud, quiet, silent. I suppose those are the main distinctions. How do you translate those? And do you use them in certain idiomatic combinations, wheres the word are no longer used literally?

    - luid (loud) > geluid (sound) > klokken luiden (bells toll, chime), het luidt als volgt (it reads as follows) > lees luidop (read aloud)
    - zacht (soft), rustig (quiet)
    - stil (normally 'silent' [stille film, iets stil houden (not to speak about something, keep it a secret)], but it can also mean 'soft, quiet', as in stille muziek, zit stil (be/ sit quiet(ly), stilletjes (quietly, doucement in French) > stilte (silence)
    (You can turn them into verbs of course - using ver-en)

    Do you have this parallel between 'quiet' and 'silent' as well?
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  2. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:

    As an adjective:
    1/ «Hχηρός, -ή, -ό» [içi'ros içi'ri içi'ro] (masc./fem./neut.); a modern construction (1871) in order to translate the French expression sonore bruyant. From the Classical masculine noun «ἦχος» ('ēxŏs)--> sound, echo (probably from *sengʷʰ-, to sing) + productive suffix (for adj.) «-ε/ηρός».
    2/ «Bροντερός, -ή, -ό» [vronde'ros vronde'ri vronde'ro] (masc./fem./neut.); a modern construction (1883). From the Classical feminine noun «βροντὴ» (brŏn'tē)--> thunder (PIE base *bʰrem-/*bʰerem- (2), to make a noise, buzz, fuzz).
    As an adverb:
    1/ «Δυνατά» [ðina'ta]; Medieval/Byzantine construction, a derivation from the Classical verb «δύναμαι» ('dŭnāmæ)--> to be strong enough (with obscure etymology).
    2/ «Φωναχτά» [fona'xta]; from the Classical verb «φωνασκέω/φωνασκῶ» (pʰōnă'skĕō [uncontracted]/pʰōnā'skō [contracted])--> lit. to train one's voice, learn to sing metaph. to produce loud noise/tone, ultimately from the Classical feminine noun «φωνὴ» (pʰō'nē; [fo'ni] in Modern Greek)--> the sound of the voice (PIE base *bʰā- (2), to speak).
    As an adjective:
    1/ «ήσυχος, -χη, -χο» ['isixos 'isiçi 'isixo] (masc./fem./neut.); from the Classical feminine noun «ἡσυχία» (hēsŭ'xīă)--> silence, stillness of unknown origin.
    2/ «σιωπηλός, -λή, -λό» [siopi'los siopi'li siopi'lo] (masc./fem./neut.); from the Classical feminine noun «σιωπὴ» (sĭō'pē)--> silence of unknown origin.
    3/ «σιγανός, -νή, -νό» [siɣa'nos siɣa'ni siɣa'no] (masc./fem./neut.); from the Classical feminine noun «σιγὴ» (sī'gē)--> silence (perhaps from PIE base *swī-, to diminish, get smaller).
    4/ «αθόρυβος, -βη, -βο» [a'θorivos a'θorivi a'θorivo] (masc./fem./neut.); privative prefix «α-» (a-) + Classical masculine noun «θόρυβος» ('tʰŏrūbŏs; ['θorivos] in Modern Greek)--> noise, tumult (PIE base *dʰrew-/*dʰerw-, to bang, roar cognate with Ger. dröhnen).
    All of the above adj. produce adverbs--> «ήσυχα» ['isixa], «σιωπηλά» [siopi'la], «σιγανά» [siɣa'na], «αθόρυβα» [a'θoriva].
  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  4. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    There is indeed a link, but there is also a confusion, a mix-up: between pitch and volume. I am referring to volume only.

    'Stille muziek' (silent music) in Dutch (Belgian Dutch ?) just means 'not loud', that is the strange thing. So indeed, it becomes about the same as zacht, rustig, etc., as I said. There is a strange double meaning of 'stil' (ad.)indeed, but not of 'stilte' (silence). That reminds me of the English 'still': 'be still and ...' can just mean 'be quiet' (calm) and but 'be quiet' often means 'don't say a word'. So there is some ambiguity there as well.

    It seems amazing to me that Greek has three words for 'silence', none of them showing a clear etymology (could that not mean they are older?).
  5. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member


    1) Hiljainen is the word for 'quiet', olla hiljaa 'to be quiet', hiljentyä rukoukseen 'bow one's head in prayer' (lit. quiet oneself in a prayer), hiljentyä kuolleen sotilaan muistolle 'calm oneself in the memory of the late soldier'. Sometimes hiljaa (quietly) can be used in the sense of 'slowly': aja hiljaa sillalla, 'drive slowly on the bridge'.

    2) Kovaääninen, "loud-voiced", means "loud" when used as an adjective. (The noun kovaääninen = kaiutin means "loudspeaker".) The primary meaning of 'kova' is 'hard, not soft, tough, rough'. Laita radiota kovemmalle, 'increase the volume of the radio' (lit. put the radio louder/"harder"), puhua kovaa/kovaäänisesti, to speak loudly. Älä aja niin kovaa! means 'Don't drive so fast!'

    3) Silent/mute is mykkä in Finnish. The word also means 'a dumb/mute/speechless person'. Mykistyä means 'be dumbfounded, fall silent (eg. of awe)', mykistää tietokoneen kaiuttimet, mute the loudspeakers of the computer, mykkäfilmi, 'a silent film'.
  6. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    ^Quite interesting that here too there is some association between loud and hard, between quiet and soft, between quiet and slow. I guess though that the main meaning of the word for quiet is often 'calm', and not 'silent' as such. I could have pointed out that loud music in Dutch may be translated as 'harde muziek'.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  7. Tamar

    Tamar Senior Member

    Israel, Hebrew
    In Hebrew:
    Loud music - מוזיקה חזקה muzika khazaka - "strong/hard" music. Or: מוזיקה רועשת muzika ro'eshet. Come from רעש ra'ash - noise.

    Quiet music - מוזיקה שקטה muzika shketa - "shketa" means quite, silent ("sheket" is silence. מוזיקה שקטה would be all "zachte/rustige/stille muziek").
    You can also say מוזיקה רגועה nuzika re'gua = calm music, but I would normally go for the first (and I'm not 100% sure that "quiet" and "calm" are the same).
  8. Moro12 Senior Member

    Actually, when you say “quiet music” and “silent music”, you mean the same thing, don’t you?

    Well, in Russian:

    Music: музыка ['mu.zᵻ.kə]
    Loud music: громкая музыка ['ɡrom.kə.jə.'mu.zᵻ.kə]. There are also other expressions, but they involve additional nuances, e.g.: шумная музыка ['ʂum.nə.jə.'mu.zᵻ.kə] (literally: “noisy music”), the meaning is close but not exactly the same.
    Quiet/silent music: тихая музыка ['tji.xə.jə.'mu.zᵻ.kə]. There are also other expressions, but they involve additional nuances, e.g.: спокойная музыка [spɐ'koɪ̯.nə.jə.'mu.zᵻ.kə] (literally: “calm music”), the meaning is somewhat similar but not exactly the same.

    Loud as adjective: громкий ['ɡrom.kjɪ ɪ̯] – громкая ['ɡrom.kə.jə] – громкое ['ɡrom.kə.jə] – громкие ['ɡrom.kjɪ.jɪ] (masc. / fem. / neut. / pl.).
    Its basic meaning is “loud” and it is only used to describe sounds (“high volume sound”). It can also be used figuratively when referring to words, speeches, news etc.: громкие слова ['ɡrom.kjɪ.jɪ.slɐ.'va] “big words”, “flaming words”, громкий скандал ['ɡrom.kjɪ ɪ̯.skɐn.'dɑɫ] “big scandal”, “resounding scandal” etc.
    Ethimologically related words: громкость ['ɡrom.kəsjtj] “sound volume”, “loudness” (quality noun), гром [ɡrom] “thunder” (noun), греметь [ɡrjɪ.'mjetj] “to thunder” (verb), громыхать [ɡrə.mᵻ.'xatj] “to rumble”, “to lumber” (verb), громить [ɡrɐ.'mjitj] “to smash”, “to destroy”, “to raid”, “to defeat” (verb), разгром [rɐz.'ɡrom] “defeat”, “rout”, “devastation” (noun), погром [pɐ.'ɡrom] “massacre”, “pogrom” (Russian-origin word).

    Quite/silent as adjective: тихий ['tji.xjɪ ɪ̯] – тихая ['tji.xə.jə] – тихое ['tji.xə.jə] – тихие ['tji.xjɪ.jɪ] (masc. / fem. / neut. / pl.).
    It has 3 basic meanings.
    The primary meaning is “quiet/silent” when referring to sounds (“low volume sound”). Note that the adjective can both mean “low volume sound” (assuming there is some sound) and “no sound at all” depending on the context. If applied to “sound”, “word”, “speech”, “voice”, “music”, “song” etc. it would be understood as “low (but not zero) volume sound”. If applied to “evening”, “night”, “forest”, “shore” etc. it would likely be understood as “no sound at all, zero-volume sound”.
    An additional meaning is to describe behaviour: “calm”, “quiet”, “peaceful” when applied to “weather”, “child”, “disposition”, “life”, “town” etc. In this case, «тихий» can be replaced by its synonym «спокойный» [spɐ'koɪ̯.nᵻɪ̯] “calm”.
    One more additional meaning is somewhat related to the previous one, it describes motion: “slow”, and can be applied to “ride”, “pace”. In this case, «тихий» can be replaced by its synonym «медленный» ['mje.dljɪ.n:ᵻɪ̯] “slow”.
    Derivative: тишина [tjɪ.ʂᵻ.'na] “silence” (noun). Note that the noun (unlike the adjective) always means “no sound at all” and not “low volume sound”.
  9. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I don't think that 'silent music' could be used in English: that would be contradiction, I think, whereas our 'stil' is silent or quiet, depending on what you refer to: 'wees stil' and 'stille film' mean 'silent', one could say, but 'stille muziek' would be quiet music, few decibels. By the way: your тихий word seems to show up the same 'ambiguity'. Would you also be able to say : do something very тихий, meaning very slowly, carefully?

    Interesting notes on /grom/ : the link with thunder and with destroying. The word suggests a link between loud noise and violence, so it seems. Would the 'underlying meaning' of /grom/ be thunder indeed, or noise at the same time.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  10. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Hög (high) - med hög röst/stämma (with a loud voice) - högljudd musik (highsounding music)
    Stark (strong) - med stark röst (with a loud voice) - kyrkklockorna ljöd starkt (the church bells sounded strong)
    Ljudlig (sounding) - med ljudlig stämma (with a sounding voice)

    Tyst (silent) - hon pratade tyst (she spoke silently/with a low voice)
    Mjuk (soft) - hon talade mjukt/hennes röst var mjuk (she spoke softly/her voice was soft)
    Stillsam (quiet) - stillsam musik (quiet/soft/slow music)

    Kraftfull (powerful) - kraftfull musik (strong music, not necessarily loud)
  11. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Now that you mention it, it's indeed weird. And we use the three interchangeably, a mother could ask from her rowdy children for a few minutes of «ησυχία», «σιγή» or «σιωπή». Come to think of it, we mostly associate «σιωπή» with a loud voice and «ησυχία» or «σιγή» with loud noises in general.

    We too can associate music with «ησυχία», «σιγή» or «σιωπή». «Ἠσυχη μουσική» ['isiçi musi'ci] is the quiet music with low db. «Σιγανή μουσική» [siɣa'ni musi'ci] is the slow music (without beats or highs). «Σιωπηλή μουσική» [siopi'li musi'ci] is the song-less/instrument-less music; e.g. the sound of the waves drifting ashore is «σιωπηλή μουσική»
  12. francisgranada Senior Member


    hangos loud, e.g. music, speach
    halk "not loud", quiet, e.g. music, speach
    csendes silent, still in general, e.g. a small town, a man who is not speaking

    Other words:

    "silent", e.g. a man who does not to speek to much
    hangtalan silent, soundless
    zajtalan silent, noiseless
    néma silent, mute (also in case of the silent film)

    (For quiet, in general, there are other words: békés, szelíd, nyugodt ...)
  13. Moro12 Senior Member

    I wonder if this Hungarian word somehow related to the Russian немой /nemoy/ meaning "dumb". And we can use it referring to a film exactly the same way: немой фильм /nemoy fil'm/ or немое кино /nemoye kino/.

    Or is it a pure coincidence?
  14. francisgranada Senior Member

    ^In Hungarian, néma is a borrowing from some (probably southern) Slavic language.
  15. Moro12 Senior Member

    Thank you! That's interesting, so my guess was right.

    This is a bit of out of the topic, but might be interesting:
    As far as I know, the original meaning of немой /nemoy/ in old Russian (and, probably, in other Slavic languages) was "a person who speaks incomprehensibly" (the modern meaning is "a dumb person"). That explains why the Russian word for "a German" is немец /nemets/, and "the German language" is немецкий язык /nemetskiy yazyk/.
  16. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, Mr AO, and can you use any of those terms in a metaphorical way ?

    Thanks, Apmoy, for the explanations. It does seem strange indeed to have the three words if they almost mean the same. But I guess there is this implicit idea of 'peace and quiet' involved? I suppose. We'd say to children that they must be 'stil' or 'rustig' (quiet - you recognize the English word rest).

    As for Hungarian, Francis: it is clear that 'silent' means way more than 'no dB', doesn't it. That is the interesting thing about this issue: those terms are seldom purely descriptive. But I don't feel able to explore the depth of that distinction, or no, ambiguity. or can we simply 'reduce' it to the very human association that peace and quiet suppose silence or lack of noise? I suppose some of the terms mentioned here for 'loud' are synonyms of 'noisy', but it has not become clear from the translations.
  17. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I just read this at the high/low thread:

    The same in French: à voix basse/ haute.

    As for the nemoy/ dumb point: quite interesting, but a sidethread, I am afraid. We also have doof (deaf)/ stom (mute), and stom is considered a very high degree of... stupidity (just like German dof, also stupid). But I consider that a sidethread, because this association only turns up here due to stomme film (silent movie, but now often replaced by stille film in Dutch because of that unpleasant association).
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  18. francisgranada Senior Member

    As to the logic of Hungarian: I don't know if the following will help you, but let me try ... :

    csend - silence (noun)
    csendes - silent, still ... (adjective)
    [csendtelen - "silentless" (possible adjective, but practically not used) ]

    hang - sound (noun)
    hangos - loud (adjective, the meaning is clearly "loud", not "noisy")
    hangtalan - soundless (adjective)

    zaj - noise (noun)
    zajos - noisy (adjective)
    zajtalan - noiseless (adjective)

    halk - quiet, "not loud" (adjective, with no corresponding noun; only in sense of "dB", without any other connotation)
    hallgatag - silent, taciturn (adjective from the verb hallgatni - to listen)
    néma - dumb, mute (adjective/noun; unable to speak; "who doesn't speak at all" (even if temporarily))

    (The English quiet is translated with various words, according to the context)
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012
  19. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    That is quite a lot of information, thanks a lot. I have just been thinking in terms of antonyms. In /concept/ terms: I thought /silence (1, semantically speaking)/ could be opposed to noise, and therefore just implies: little 'noise', no disturbing noise. I suppose sound (hang) and silence (2) are more technical, to be expressed in dB. I suppose English has two different words for these two concepts: silence /silence, 2/ and quiet / silence, 1/, and maybe that is your opposition between csend and halk. We can do it with stilte, which we use in quite some contexts, and very, very metaphorically, I'd say.

    Not sure, but guessing. Thanks for your food for thought.
  20. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    In Tagalog, Loud= 1.) Malakas (vibration is felt) 2.) Maingay (the sounds of rock music) 2.) Quite= Malumanay/ katamtaman 3.) Silent= Mahina/tila bulong
  21. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    Loud: 大聲 - da sheng, big sound (no lit. necessary because it's already lit.! :D)
    Quiet: 安靜 - anjing. 'An' means peaceful, serene, etc.; 'jing' (as a morpheme) can mean stationary or quiet, and I'm not sure which is the root...
    Soft: 小聲 - xiao sheng, small sound (again, not lit.!)
    Silent: 寧靜 - ningjing. 'Ning' means peaceful, serene, etc., much like 安, really; 'jing' is the same as above. Ning has a different meaning with a different tone (there's a Chinese forum thread on that). There's also the idiom 鴉雀無聲 ya que wu sheng - the crows and birds make no sound, which is very silent!
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Just one more question, Mr/Ms OneStroke: do you use anjing or ningjing when telling/ asking someone to be quiet? Or can you use both?

    Could you give me the specific meaning of the crows expression ?
  23. AquisM Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    安静 anjing would be used (Be quiet!: 安静一点!). 宁静 ninjing is used only as adjective.

    It is just a nice little phrase to describe a silent surrounding.
  24. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    Yep. We also have other words for quiet, e.g. 寂靜 (jijing, both morphemes meaning quiet) and 幽靜 (youjing, in which the you is a rather profound morpheme describing an atmosphere which is quiet, dark, etc.)

    肅靜 is used to tell noisy children to be quiet and serious.
  25. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Just by the way, I started a similar topic at this thread, but I was younger then ;-(...
  26. Holger2014 Senior Member

    Trying to compare German with its related languages...

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