This is a well worn phrase I'm trying to avoid in my writing. I'm looking for another word to replace 'hum', which I take to mean the background noise resulting from people talking. I came up with 'murmur', but ideally, I'd like a word that suggests a deep pitch. You see, I'm writing about a group of men, and in my head, I compare the sound of their voices to sounds stones would make as they bounce off each other while being carried along by a river. 'Trundle'? I thought 'gravel', but then, I plan to use that word a short distance away, and I hate clumsy repeats.

Any suggestions?

  • How about a grumble ? But the again, it can also mean a complaint. So it would depend on what they are talking about.
    – TsSkTo
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 14:16
  • Does it have to be a single word? I find your description quite a nice mental image, one that i haven't heared before.
    – ThatOneGuy
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 21:11

6 Answers 6


“A rumble of men's voices” might be an appropriate phrase, using rumble's sense “A low, heavy, continuous sound, such as that of thunder or a hungry stomach”.

  • Very good! This is the word I ended up using. It was the perfect fit, but I enjoyed the other suggestions that turned up. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 21:23

OP could go with murmur, but I and most other Anglophones tend to use buzz...

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On the other hand, since OP wants a word evocative of running water, it's worth noting...

babbling brook 44,500 instances in Google Books
babble of conversation 24,900 instances



To make the quiet sound of water moving over rocks

also purl

To flow or ripple with a murmuring sound.


You could describe the noise as lithophonic drone or hum or noise.

A lithophone is a musical instrument consisting of a rock or pieces of rock which are struck to produce musical notes.


Amid the chatter, chitchat, jabbering, yammering, clacking, yakking, ...

Non-onomatopoeic 'group of men': shooting the breeze, chewing the fat


I have always described it as a "din". The room was filled with a din of conversation. If you're at a busy bar with friends, you must compete with the din in the room in order to hold a conversation. In your case I might say something like, "The room was filled with the baritone din of conversation."

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