When a film is dubbed it means the audio has been re-recorded in another language.

Often the options for "sub" (subtitle) or "dub" are given for a translated film which made me wonder if dub is short for something or what its origins are, and why it has come to specifically mean record in another language.

closed as off-topic by NVZ, TimLymington, Scott, jimm101, tchrist Jan 23 '17 at 1:47

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  • 4
    It's short for double, defined by OED as To provide an alternative sound track to (a film or television broadcast), especially a translation from a foreign language; to mix (various sound tracks) into a single track (see quot. 1959 for dubbing adj. and n.2 at Derivatives); to impose (additional sounds) on to an existing recording; to transfer (recorded sound) on to a new record. – FumbleFingers Jan 17 '17 at 18:18
  • 2
    Use Google to search dub and see which of the etymologies match your requirement. – NVZ Jan 17 '17 at 19:10
  • Here's some additional information about "lip dubbing," a popular mode of involving lots of people in a musical video, which involves no singing on the participants' part: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/lip+dub. By the way, I'm with @FumbleFingers in suggesting that "dub" is short for "double" or "doubling." – rhetorician Jan 17 '17 at 19:14
  • "Dubbing" meaning "the audio has been re-recorded in another language" is used outside the industry. I believe within the industry it has another name. Dubbing refers to a post-synchronization process first used by director King Vidor in 1929 for the movie Hallelujah! – Cascabel Jan 17 '17 at 20:48
  • Wonder if the dub music term developed in 1960s Jamaica partly due this film usage. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dub_music says The verb dub is defined as making a copy of one recording to another. The process of using previously recorded material, modifying the material, and subsequently recording it to a new master mix, in effect doubling or "dubbing" the material, was utilized by Jamaican producers when making dubs.The term dub had multiple meanings in Jamaica around the time [...] The most frequent meanings referred to either a form of erotic dance or sexual intercourse – k1eran Jan 17 '17 at 21:09

Dub, in the sense related to movie is from 1929, just a couple of years later after the the introduction of sound movies. Dubbing became soon an industry closely connected to filmmaking:

  • "add or alter sound on film," 1929, shortening of double; so called because it involves re-recording voices onto a soundtrack. The type of re-mixed reggae music was so called from 1974, probably for the same reason.



To 'dub' (hence 'dubbing'), in the sense pertaining to sound on film, shortens 'double'. The term in this sense originated during the development from silent motion pictures to sound pictures. 'Dub' and 'dubbing' continue to be used more generally than the sense of 'overlaying another language on the original language of a motion picture' suggests.

The first reference to 'dub' or 'dubbing' that I could locate in published sources was this from the 22 Jul 1928 Los Angeles Times, p 76 (paywalled link), describing a soon-to-be completed Movietone production plant:

The recording building will provide space for a generator room, transmission room, amplifier room, film experimental laboratory, recording room, dubbing room, wax shaving room, transmission laboratory, battery room, dark room, shipping department and vault.

The process of 'dubbing', and how it differed from other contemporary synchronization processes, is detailed a short two years later in The Art of Sound Pictures (Walter B. Pitkin and William M. Marston, Appleton, 1930):

Still another method of synchronizing the sound record and the photographic record is known as "dubbing" the sound on the picture film. A silent picture may be photographed in the usual way, without any sound apparatus whatsoever on the set. The film is then developed and run in a projection room in which sound recording apparatus is set up. An orchestra plays an accompaniment to the silent picture as it is shown on the screen, and the orchestration is recorded on a separate sound film, which is synchronized with the film upon which the pictures are already recorded. Then the two strips of film are taken to the laboratory, and the sound and picture records are put on the same film.

This process of dubbing on orchestartion or other sound effects, such as the shooting of guns, the squealing of pigs, the roaring of floods, etc., may be performed in the same way on a film which already carries both picture and dialogue records. The volume and intensity of the music and other sounds are then softeneed in the process of dubbing, so that the dialogue comes out clearly against the background of rushing water or violin obligato.


From my experience in the industry, and not as a source of authority, I can say that dub has the general meaning of duplicate and doesn't refer only to re-recording in another language but also to remixing in the original language.

In the general sense, a dub of a recording is a copy of that item, again, a duplicate. I'd venture that's the etymology -- dub = dupe = duplicate.

  • 3
    In general, we want authoritative answers -- answers that are confident they are correct, and can prove it -- otherwise, we're just adding more noise to the general cacophony of false or at least misleading information on the Internet. If you can find documentation to back up the idea that "dub" comes from "duplicate" (as opposed to "double", say, as FumbleFingers indicates in his comment under the question), I can remove my downvote, and possibly upvote. – Dan Bron Jan 17 '17 at 18:34
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    Naw, I don't care, do what you will. I know what I know from 40+ years of doing "dubs" and "dubbing" but I don't represent myself as an authoritative source (as I said). – Jim Mack Jan 17 '17 at 20:16

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