Is there a word or expression describing a phone call when the caller doesn't hang up, but also doesn't say anything (or at least nothing can be heard)?

I'm specifically looking for a term describing such call made to scare someone (with the caller breath being heard).

My initial thought was that it's called silent call, but according to Wikipedia it means something different.

  • 1
    "The call is from inside the house." Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 13:49
  • We (wife and I) generally call them "breathers", even though no one can be heard to be breathing on the other end. "Dead air" is another term of the art. But we're mainly talking about telemarketing calls where the auto-dialer got too far ahead of itself and there's one ready in the call center to take the call.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 17:10
  • I would call it a faux call.
    – Robusto
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 18:46

4 Answers 4


Silent call is still the general term that you are looking for.

Nowadays, it is usually initiated by companies by using technology but it can be deliberately done by a person as well.

A silent call happens when your phone rings but there's only silence when you answer it and you have no means of knowing whether anyone is at the end of the line.

For many people, silent calls can be unnerving or indeed frightening. Almost always there is nothing sinister going on. They are usually caused by companies using predictive diallers or other automated calling systems to make large volumes of calls.


It is also mentioned as a type of nuisance calls:

Nuisance calls are calls that are not indecent, threatening or offensive, but which cause annoyance or anxiety. Silent calls or calls at unsociable hours are two examples.


I even found an example that covers faint breathing part in a silent call: (from the book Preacher Man By Charles Carroll Lee)

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  • From your extract it apprears that silent calls are due more to technical problems rather than harassment. OP says with the caller breath being heard. Nuisance calls are more spot on.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 16:44
  • @Josh61: The technical definition is not related to a technical problem, it is deliberately done by companies. OP also asked for a general term apart from the "breathing" part. If the silent call is deliberately done by someone, you might hear nothing or faint breathing maybe. Heavy breathing suggests sexual harassment.
    – ermanen
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 16:54
  • 1
    Thanks for you answer and the comment about heavy breathing. It seems that it is silent call after all. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 12:00

I think you have in mind anonymous calls that are generally referred to as heavy breathing phone calls. These calls usally have a sexual connotation.

Heavy breather:

  • an anonymous telephone caller who imitates such sounds, as being suggestive of sexual excitement.


  • Close, but according to this definition this is limited to "sexual excitement sounds". Perhaps there is a broader term? Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 16:04
  • I guess this is as close as you can get referring to an anonymous breathing call. They generally refer to sexual harassment but are not limited to that.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 16:12

I would call it a prank phone call; specifically a silent prank phone call.

Here's a question about it on Yahoo! Answers. It is entitled "I keep getting silent prank calls."

And here, you can pay good money to have a robo-caller prank your friends and enemies with a silent prank call.


A one sided conversation is a monologue.

Someone might be on the other end listening to your frightened monologue.

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