Does the low in

Speak in a low voice!

He said in a low voice.

refer to the volume/loudness or to the pitch? Does it mean quiet, or low-frequency?

EDIT: After understanding from your answers that the meaning is ambiguous (it may apparently mean either the first or the second or both), and after reading some answers to Please "Mute your voice"! suggesting "lower your voice" as a request to speak more quietly, I am adding a related question:

Is the meaning of

Lower your voice!

also ambiguous, or does this particular phrase refer unambiguously to loudness?

  • That reminded me of a little kid I used to know. At age three or four he totally couldn't whisper. He would try but everything came out loud. I can remember once in a store him trying to whisper to his mom... "Mom, why is that lady so fat?" It's very funny now, not so much at the time.
    – zipzit
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 20:27

3 Answers 3



(Of a sound or voice) not loud or high:
keep the volume very low
his low, husky voice

It has, therefore, both the meanings.
The same dictionary defines husky thus:

1 (Of a voice or utterance) sounding low-pitched and slightly hoarse:
his voice became a husky, erotic whisper

A low voice can be loud! (click 'More example sentences' in the low entry to open)

His voice was low and loud, like a volcanic eruption sounds from inside the volcano.

By the same token, lower your voice would also be ambiguous. However, there would hardly be an occasion to ask someone to reduce the frequency rather than the amplitude, other than maybe at an audition/ recording session.

  • 5
    It's certainly not necessarily both at the same time, as your final example shows. And there are plenty of written instances of both "low and quiet voice" and "low but loud voice". Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:05
  • 2
    Vin Diesel has a low voice: Vin Diesel on CO2 sounds like a diesel (hah!) generator, on Helium a normal person; his voice is low regardless of the volume he speaks. I think it would be clearer if you edited to make it more obvious the answer is essentially 'both or either, depending on context.'
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:38
  • 1
    I think it's usually either quiet or deep, not both. Without further context, I'd assume quiet was the intent.
    – Tim S.
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 22:11
  • @FumbleFingers The pitfalls of a language! Edited to show what I really meant.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 5:54
  • @Kris: "there would hardly be an occasion to ask someone to reduce the frequency rather than the amplitude" - you don't have small kids, do you? :) Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 6:06

The most common sense would be for "low voice" to mean low levels of loudness.

The most common way to ask for a low pitch would be to ask for a "deep voice"


It depends entirely on context. "Darth Vader has a low voice." or "Why are you speaking in such a low voice?" "Because my throat is sore."

  • I'm not sure I agree. The usual phrase is, "Darth Vader has a deep voice". I personally haven't heard 'low voice' used that way. Edit: I've just noticed that Oldcat makes that point. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 15:49

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