AskDefine | Define taciturn

Dictionary Definition

taciturn adj : habitually reserved and uncommunicative [ant: voluble]

User Contributed Dictionary



From taciturne or taciturnus, from tacitus.


  • a RP /ˈtæsɪtɜːn/
  • a US /ˈtæsətɝːn/


  1. Silent; temperamentally untalkative; disinclined to speak.
    The two sisters could hardly have been more different, one so boisterous and expressive, the other so taciturn and calm.




untalkative, silent

Extensive Definition

Silence is a relative or total lack of audible sound. An environment with sound below 20 decibels is considered quiet or silent.

Silence in Social Interaction: Functions, Meanings, and Interpretations

Silence is noticed through the basic human need of social interaction: communication. Categorized into forms and functions, silence can fall into three distinct sections (Bruneau, 1973). These categories describe instances either mental or social or a combination thereof, in which silence can be found and thereafter interpreted. First is the Psychological, second Interactive, and third is sociocultural. All of these are distinctly defined through time, context, and perception.
The physiological form of silence can be identified through momentary silences in communicative interaction like hesitation, stutters, self-correction, deliberate slowing of speech for the purpose of clarification or mental processing of ideas to elaborate on topics of discussion. This silence type is short and combines internal or mental (psychological) factors in to a physical form of external expression.
Interactive silence can be found within interpersonal context-that is interpersonal relationships along with the management and maintenance that relationships require. This category of silence is evident through interactive roles, reactive tokens, or turn-taking.
Lastly, there is the sociocultural framework of silences in which it can be found through the cultural communicative habits, that is, that communication is formed through cultural norms and that it follows the culturally defined patterns of social interaction. Through this silence can be interpreted as positive or negative, taking cultural acceptance of the silence within a given communicative situation into thought. Take religious cultures for example where a Christian Methodist faith organization might appreciate silence and reflection during the sermons, the congregation in a Southern Baptist church might consider silence to mean disagreement with what is being taught, or perhaps disconnectedness from the congregated community.

Gestures and symbols

The rose, sometimes depicted clasped by or on top of closed lips, is another well-recognized symbol of silence stemming from various mythologies.
In the Western cultures, it is sometimes difficult to interpret the message being sent by a person being silent (i.e. not speaking). It can mean anger, hostility, disinterest, or any number of other emotions. Because of this, people in Western cultures feel uneasy when one party is silent and will usually try their best to fill up the silence with small talk.
The Western Apaches use silence during times of uncertainty or anger in the way most people in Western cultures would be vocal. The goal is to observe and anticipate what the other party is going to do.
In Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan, silence is a symbol of victimization, a sign of the overbearing memories which burden us. Its characters have been silenced by repression.

In music

Music inherently depends on silence in some form or another to distinguish other periods of sound and allow dynamics, melodies and rhythms to have greater impact. For example, most music scores feature "rests" denoting periods of silence.
Some composers take the use of silence in music to an extreme. 4′33″ is an experimental musical work by avant-garde composer John Cage. It consists of just over four and a half minutes of silence. Though first performed on the piano, the piece was composed for any instrument or instruments and is structured in three movements. The length of each movement is not fixed by the composer, nor is the total length of the piece. The title of the piece should reflect the timings chosen, and could therefore be different at every performance. The modern performance tradition of 4′33″ is to keep the total duration fixed as at the first performance.

In debate

Argumentative silence is the rhetorical practice of saying nothing when an opponent in a debate would expect something to be said. Poorly executed, it can be very offensive, like refusing to answer a direct question. However, well-timed silence can completely throw an opponent and give the debater the upper hand.
An argument from silence (Latin: argumentum ex silentio) is an argument based on the assumption that someone's silence on a matter suggests ("proves" when a logical fallacy) that person's ignorance of the matter. In general, ex silentio refers to the claim that the absence of something demonstrates the proof of a proposition.

In law

The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. The law is either explicit or recognized in many legal systems. Violation of the right to quiet enjoyment is a common law tort.

In spirituality

A silent mind, freed from the onslaught of thoughts and thought patterns, is both a goal and an important step in spiritual development. Inner silence is understood to bring one in contact with the divine or the ultimate reality of this moment. All religious traditions imply the importance of being quiet and still in mind and spirit for transformative and integral spiritual growth to occur. In Christianity, there is the silence of contemplative prayer such as Centering prayer and Christian meditation; in Islam, there are the wisdom writings of the Sufis who insist on the importance of finding silence within. In Buddhism, the descriptions of silence and allowing the mind to become silent are implied as a feature of spiritual enlightenment. In Hinduism, including the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and the many paths of yoga, teachers insist on the importance of silence for inner growth. In Quakerism, silence is an actual part of worship services and a time to allow the divine to speak in the heart and mind.

Commemorative silence

A common way to remember a tragic accident and to remember the victims or casualties of such an event is a commemorative silence. This usually means one or more "minutes of silence", in which one is supposed to not speak, but instead remember and reflect on the event. A commemorative silence may be held at a workplace, a school, and similar institutions. Sometimes a government will advertise a commemorative silence for a specific period at a specific time, which everybody is encouraged (but not forced) to honor. One such example is after the events of 9/11, and on its anniversary several years afterward, when many governments around the world announced 3 minutes of silence in respect of the victims of the event.

Effects on humans and animals

Prolonged silence can often affect a person's state of mind, causing them to hear things and talk to themselves to break the silence. Most people find silence uncomfortable, and to the extreme, unbearable.
In labs, animals that have been subject to a total lack of noise have shown signs of behavioral changes and aggression (see Sensory deprivation).
The musician and composer, Antony Pitts, remarked that true absolute silence is virtually unattainable, and noted that the silence people usually speak of is normally what we think of as simple quiet.


See also

External links

taciturn in Arabic: صمت
taciturn in Aymara: Ch'uju
taciturn in Bulgarian: Мълчание
taciturn in German: Stille
taciturn in Spanish: Silencio (sonido)
taciturn in French: Silence
taciturn in Italian: Silenzio
taciturn in Latin: Silentium
taciturn in Dutch: Stilte
taciturn in Norwegian: Stillhet
taciturn in Norwegian Nynorsk: Stille
taciturn in Polish: Cisza (akustyka)
taciturn in Sicilian: Silenziu
taciturn in Swedish: Tystnad
taciturn in Slovak: Ticho

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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