Dumb vs. Thick: What's the Difference?
"Dumb" primarily means unable to speak or lacking intelligence; "thick" mainly refers to high density or low mental acuity.
“Dumb” and “thick” are both adjectives in the English language, and while they might sometimes be used interchangeably in casual language to refer to lack of intelligence, they have different primary meanings. “Dumb” originally refers to the inability to speak, but it’s also colloquially used to describe something or someone perceived as lacking intelligence or making unwise decisions. For example, “He acted dumb in the meeting,” implies a lack of intelligent contribution.
“Thick,” on the other hand, primarily denotes a substantial extent from one surface to the opposite, such as in a material object. It’s often used to describe physical dimensions. However, in informal language, “thick” can also refer to someone who is slow to understand or perceive things, similar to one of the colloquial meanings of “dumb.” For instance, saying, “The book’s pages are thick,” refers to physical dimension, while, “He is a bit thick,” refers to mental acuity.
“Dumb” can also imply mute or silent, not expressing or accompanied by speech or sound, for instance, a dumb show is a mime performance. This usage highlights the incapacity for speech but does not necessarily imply a lack of intelligence.
In contrast, “thick” can refer to density or viscosity of a fluid or semi-fluid substance. When someone says, “The sauce is too thick,” it means that the sauce has a dense or viscous consistency. It can also refer to a close gathering of objects or individuals, like a thick crowd, reflecting density rather than any implication of intelligence.
In conclusion, while “dumb” and “thick” have colloquial overlap relating to perceived lack of intelligence, their primary definitions are distinct, with “dumb” relating to speech and “thick” to density or dimension.
Unable to speak.
Having a large distance between opposite sides.
Slow to understand; dense (both in mind and matter).
Can denote silence or a lack of sound.
Refers to the density or viscosity of objects or fluids.
Often used to express frustration or disbelief at someone’s actions.
Used to describe the physical state or appearance of objects.
Applied to people, actions, or decisions.
Applied to objects, substances, and occasionally, people.
Dumb and Thick Definitions
Lacking the power of speech.
The illness left him dumb.
Viscous; not flowing easily.
The sauce is too thick.
It was a dumb idea to go out in the rain.
Relatively great in extent from one surface to the opposite, usually in the smallest solid dimension; not thin
A thick board.
Made, done, or seeming stupid.
He gave a dumb response to the question.
Measuring a specified number of units in this dimension
Two inches thick.
Temporarily unable or unwilling to speak.
She was dumb with shock.
Heavy in form, build, or stature; thickset
A thick neck.
Showing a lack of judgment, sense, or reason; foolish.
That was a dumb mistake.
Having component parts in a close, crowded state or arrangement; dense
A thick forest.
Lacking the power of speech. Used of animals and inanimate objects.
Having or suggesting a heavy or viscous consistency
Thick tomato sauce.
(Offensive) Incapable of using speech; mute. Used of humans. See Usage Note at mute.
Having a great number; abounding
A room thick with flies.
Temporarily speechless, as with shock or fear
I was dumb with disbelief.
Impenetrable by the eyes
A thick fog.
Unwilling to speak; taciturn.
Hard to hear or understand, as from being husky or slurred
Not expressed or articulated in sounds or words
Very noticeable; pronounced
Has a thick accent.
(Nautical) Not self-propelling.
(Informal) Lacking mental agility; stupid.
Conspicuously unintelligent; stupid
A dumb decision.
(Informal) Very friendly; intimate
(Informal) Going beyond what is tolerable; excessive.
To make silent or dumb.
In a thick manner; deeply or heavily
Seashells lay thick on the beach.
(dated) Unable to speak; lacking power of speech (kept in "deaf, dumb, and blind").
His younger brother was born dumb, and communicated with sign language.
In a close, compact state or arrangement; densely
Dozens of braids hung thick from the back of her head.
(dated) Silent; unaccompanied by words.
So as to be thick; thickly
Slice the bread thick for the best French toast.
You are so dumb! You don't even know how to make toast!
The thickest part.
(figuratively) Pointless, foolish, lacking intellectual content or value.
This is dumb! We're driving in circles! We should have asked for directions an hour ago!
Brendan had the dumb job of moving boxes from one conveyor belt to another.
The most active or intense part
In the thick of the fighting.
Lacking brightness or clearness, as a colour.
Relatively great in extent from one surface to the opposite in its smallest solid dimension.
Measuring a certain number of units in this dimension.
I want some planks that are two inches thick.
(transitive) To make stupid.
Heavy in build; thickset.
He had such a thick neck that he had to turn his body to look to the side.
(transitive) To represent as stupid.
Densely crowded or packed.
We walked through thick undergrowth.
(transitive) To reduce the intellectual demands of.
Having a viscous consistency.
My mum’s gravy was thick but at least it moved about.
Destitute of the power of speech; unable; to utter articulate sounds; as, the dumb brutes.
To unloose the very tongues even of dumb creatures.
Abounding in number.
The room was thick with reporters.
Not willing to speak; mute; silent; not speaking; not accompanied by words; as, dumb show.
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
To pierce into the dumb past.
Impenetrable to sight.
We drove through thick fog.
Lacking brightness or clearness, as a color.
Her stern was painted of a dumb white or dun color.
(Of an accent) Prominent, strong.
To put to silence.
Greatly evocative of one's nationality or place of origin.
He answered me in his characteristically thick Creole patois.
Slow to learn or understand; lacking intellectual acuity;
So dense he never understands anything I say to him
Never met anyone quite so dim
Although dull at classical learning, at mathematics he was uncommonly quick
Dumb officials make some really dumb decisions
He was either normally stupid or being deliberately obtuse
Worked with the slow students
Difficult to understand, or poorly articulated.
We had difficulty understanding him with his thick accent.
Unable to speak temporarily;
Speechless with shock
He was as thick as two short planks.
Lacking the power of human speech;
(informal) Friendly or intimate.
They were as thick as thieves.
Unable to speak because of hereditary deafness
Deep, intense, or profound.
(academic) Detailed and expansive; substantive.
Curvy and voluptuous, and especially having large hips.
In a thick manner.
Snow lay thick on the ground.
Frequently or numerously.
The arrows flew thick and fast around us.
The thickest, or most active or intense, part of something.
It was mayhem in the thick of battle.
(slang) A stupid person; a fool.
Measuring in the third dimension other than length and breadth, or in general dimension other than length; - said of a solid body; as, a timber seven inches thick.
Were it as thick as is a branched oak.
My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.
Having more depth or extent from one surface to its opposite than usual; not thin or slender; as, a thick plank; thick cloth; thick paper; thick neck.
Dense; not thin; inspissated; as, thick vapors. Also used figuratively; as, thick darkness.
Make the gruel thick and slab.
Not transparent or clear; hence, turbid, muddy, or misty; as, the water of a river is apt to be thick after a rain.
Abundant, close, or crowded in space; closely set; following in quick succession; frequently recurring.
The people were gathered thick together.
Black was the forest; thick with beech it stood.
Not having due distinction of syllables, or good articulation; indistinct; as, a thick utterance.
Deep; profound; as, thick sleep.
Dull; not quick; as, thick of fearing.
His dimensions to any thick sight were invincible.
Intimate; very friendly; familiar.
We have been thick ever since.
The thickest part, or the time when anything is thickest.
In the thick of the dust and smoke.
A thicket; as, gloomy thicks.
Through the thick they heard one rudely rush.
He through a little window cast his sightThrough thick of bars, that gave a scanty light.
Through thick and thin she followed him.
He became the panegyrist, through thick and thin, of a military frenzy.
Frequently; fast; quick.
Closely; as, a plat of ground thick sown.
To a great depth, or to a greater depth than usual; as, land covered thick with manure.
The nightmare Life-in-death was she,Who thicks man's blood with cold.
The location of something surrounded by other things;
In the midst of the crowd
Not thin; of a specific thickness or of relatively great extent from one surface to the opposite usually in the smallest of the three solid dimensions;
An inch thick
A thick board
A thick sandwich
Spread a thick layer of butter
Thick coating of dust
Thick warm blankets
Closely crowded together;
A compact shopping center
A dense population
Relatively dense in consistency;
Spoken as if with a thick tongue;
The thick speech of a drunkard
His words were slurred
Wide from side to side;
A heavy black mark
Hard to pass through because of dense growth;
(of darkness) very intense;
A face in deep shadow
A thick head of hair
Heavy and compact in form or stature;
A wrestler of compact build
He was tall and heavyset
A thick middle-aged man
A thickset young man
(used informally) associated on close terms;
A close friend
The bartender was chummy with the regular customers
The two were thick as thieves for months
Abundantly covered or filled;
The top was thick with dust
With a thick consistency;
The blood was flowing thick
In quick succession;
Misfortunes come fast and thick
Having a relatively great depth or distance from one surface to the opposite.
The wall is two feet thick.
Having component parts in a close, crowded state or arrangement; dense.
A thick forest.
(Informal) Lacking perception; slow-witted.
He is thick if he doesn’t understand that.
Abundant, concentrated; intense.
The air was thick with smoke.
Can “thick” refer to density of substances?
Yes, “thick” can describe the density or viscosity of substances.
Is “dumb” related to silence?
Yes, “dumb” can relate to being silent or not producing sound.
Does “dumb” always mean unintelligent?
No, “dumb” primarily means unable to speak; unintelligent is a colloquial use.
Does “thick” always relate to physical dimensions?
No, it can also refer informally to lack of perception or understanding.
Is “dumb” used to describe mute people?
Historically, yes, but it’s considered outdated and offensive in this context today.
Can “thick” describe a person's mental acuity?
Informally, yes; it can imply someone is slow to understand, but it’s potentially offensive.
Is “dumb” offensive when referring to intelligence?
Yes, it can be perceived as derogatory and offensive; careful use is advised.
Can “thick” be used to describe crowded situations?
Yes, it can describe areas or situations where objects or people are densely packed.
Is it appropriate to use “dumb” to describe unwise decisions?
It’s colloquially used this way, but it can be insensitive or offensive to some.
Does “dumb” imply temporary speechlessness?
Yes, it can imply being temporarily unable or unwilling to speak due to surprise or shock.
Does “thick” relate to intense or concentrated states?
Yes, it can refer to situations or environments that are intense, concentrated, or abundant in some elements.
Can “thick” mean close in proximity?
Yes, it can mean close in relationship or proximity, e.g., “They are thick as thieves.”
Can “thick” be used to describe fluid consistency?
Yes, it can describe the viscosity or density of a fluid or semi-fluid substance.
Is “dumb” used as a noun?
Rarely, but it can be used as a noun, historically referring to a mute person, which is now considered offensive.
Is “dumb” a slang term?
It has slang uses, especially when referring to perceived lack of intelligence or unwise decisions.
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