Many time we hear this phrase but I'm wondering if there exists a single word for this.

closed as off-topic by cobaltduck, FumbleFingers, NVZ, Kevin Workman, ab2 Jul 21 '16 at 0:44

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  • 3
    Silence alone connotes absolute absence of sound. It works. – GoldenGremlin Jul 20 '16 at 13:02
  • 2
    Yes, it's called "silence." – Benjamin Harman Jul 20 '16 at 13:02
  • @cobaltduck , sir, can I say "The room is pindrop silent"? – Kumar sadhu Mar 30 at 6:28

Sometimes it is hard to see that the word we've been looking for was right in front of us the whole time.

Pin drop silence emphasizes the degree of silence, suggesting that the silence is so absolute or complete that one can hear a pin drop.

Now consider the definition of silence:

Complete absence of sound.

Thus, silence alone connotes absolute absence of sound. It works as a replacement for pin drop silence.

You can view pin drop silence on analogy with utter vacuity (here, utter is a bit redundant since vacuity is already pretty absolute). Pin drop acts as a modifier of degree, just like utter. But when the word its modifying already has a degree "built in" (as silence does, evinced by the presence of complete in the definition above), the modifier can be dropped without much loss. Note, however, that pin drop might carry some connotations: For example, that the situation is tense. Such connotations would be lost by dropping it.

People regularly say It's so quiet you can hear a pin drop. They do not regularly say It's so silent you can hear a pin drop. This is because quiet is less absolute than silence. Using the modifier makes sense with quiet, but not with silence.

  • That leaves the question what is absolute silence? Unless describing outer space there are almost always some sort of background noises. That is probably why there are so many paraphrasing possibilities for the total silence. For MW it's just a lack of sound or noise. That does not sound as total as the oxford definition. – Helmar Jul 20 '16 at 14:25
  • @Helmar, we definitely do use "silence" to mean the relative absence of sound, rather than the more theoretical absolute absence of sound. No doubt about it. Typical speakers probably aren't informed enough on the physics of sound to even conceive of the absolute conception. But silence definitely connotes a more total state than quiet, which is why (I imagine), some dictionaries use the modifier complete. – GoldenGremlin Jul 20 '16 at 14:30
  • 1
    I generally agree. And as a one-word request silence seems to be the best option. I just wanted to point out why often a paraphrasation is used to - well describe the degree of silence. Besides (tense) situations where the silence is just one part of the description. – Helmar Jul 20 '16 at 14:57

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