The noises made by electronic devices (lamps, electronic chargers, etc.) sound to me like a high-pitched,barely audible "zzzzzz".

In my mind is the word "buzz". Beyond that I don't really know.

What word should I use to describe them?

  • 2
    Welcome to English Language & Usage. The word coming to mind is whine. As it stands the question is incomplete. Please edit to add research you did before asking an expert, and specifically what words you considered and why you were not satisfied with them. Thanks.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 3:47
  • What does the noise sound like? Click, hum, buzz, burr, beep, whir ... there's lots of electronic noises. You'll need to be more descriptive and in being that, may find your own answer.
    – teylyn
    Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 7:58

2 Answers 2


This is usually referred to as humming.

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    Also whine or whistle. Hum is very common for the 50 or 60 Hz line voltage sound, but I personally have never heard hum used for the high pitched variety. There's ringing but that is characteristically used when the high pitched sound is in your ears, not in a device.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 4:01
  • While it indeed is 'referred to as humming,' it is not usually. See also: sweetwater.com/insync/hum
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 7:45

Depends on the device. A variety of onomatopoetic words would be serviceable--buzz or hmmmmm, for instance; but your particular device might not make that noise. In the case of sound effects, remember that you're free to improvise on the spelling. :-)

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