Dictionary gives me "drone" and "murmur" but I'm not sure if that's the word I am thinking of. I want to use it to describe a group of people on strike who hear that their demands are not met and the CEO has resigned. They're not shouting, but they're not whispering either. They're restless and confused. I want to say that a certain something (murmur?) was heard among the crowds, to indicate their state.

  • 4
    Crowds also "clamor," but this is not a low-level noise. It is loud.
    – rajah9
    Jan 19, 2017 at 0:08
  • 5
    murmor fits the situation very well for me.. But I'd say a murmor spread through the crowd. Or a murmor trembled through the room...
    – Tom22
    Jan 19, 2017 at 0:30
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    I've also heard "angry murmur" and "nervous murmur" (and drat that spelling above)
    – Tom22
    Jan 19, 2017 at 0:37
  • 1
    The technical term in media for this is walla. Jan 19, 2017 at 1:40
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    Someone else had to think of this, right? youtube.com/watch?v=9gSQg1i_q2g RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE
    – goodguy5
    Jan 19, 2017 at 13:33

15 Answers 15


I think you were spot on with murmur as suggested in the question:

A low continuous background noise:
‘the distant murmur of traffic’

(Oxford Dictionaries)

A more relevant example could be:

The murmuring crowd was distracting the speaker.

Or, as a noun:

A murmur of agreement spread through the crowd at the suggestion.

  • 2
    This was played to effect in "Young Frankenstein" when the Angry Mob literally said "murmur, murmur". (With my avi, I should be expected to make YF references.) Jan 19, 2017 at 17:19

"a rumbling of discontent" may work.

Rumbling: synonym of rumble:

  • a deep, heavy, somewhat muffled, continuous sound
  • a widespread murmur of discontent


  • dissatisfaction
  • 6
    Please flesh out your answer by adding relevant definitions from a dictionary, and adding usage examples.
    – NVZ
    Jan 19, 2017 at 2:27
  • 2
    I like rumbling. You just need to document it a little bit. Jan 19, 2017 at 8:51
  • Ngram likes wave of discontent better. There's also murmurous discord and dissension in the ranks.
    – Mazura
    Jan 19, 2017 at 23:58
  • @ANonymouse - You are asked to flesh out with relevant definitions, not irrelevant ramblings. I've removed your edits and added in relevant definitions.
    – AndyT
    Jan 20, 2017 at 11:07
  • @AndyT the upvote definitely goes towards your edit, if I had known beforehand what a sulky and churlish explanation had originally been give, I'm not so sure I would have upvoted. Anyway, this is the answer I had in mind, rumble expresses a sense of foreboding. The ground rumbles just before an earthquake, does it not?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 22, 2017 at 0:53

The word you're looking for is mutter. The Oxford Living Dictionary has, as a noun:

A barely audible utterance, especially one expressing dissatisfaction or irritation.

And as an example for the verb:

Back-benchers were muttering about the next reshuffle.

  • 11
    A crowd can murmur, but can it mutter? For some reason it sounds odd with a mass noun, but I'm not sure why. Jan 19, 2017 at 15:25
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    @Matt A Google search for "the crowd was muttering" turns up abundant results. Besides, the OP asks for a noun. "A mutter rose from the crowd" fits.
    – verbose
    Jan 19, 2017 at 18:17
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    +1 for including the desired negative connotations. I've definitely heard of a "crown muttering". Jan 19, 2017 at 19:49
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    It seems a little odd to me to say that "the crowd was muttering", but you could certainly say that there was "muttering among the crowd".
    – DCShannon
    Jan 19, 2017 at 21:53
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    Personally, I like "commotion." Jan 20, 2017 at 15:39

I asked an online thesaurus for synonyms of clamor. Perhaps one of these would suit for the murmuring crowd:

  • buzz
  • brouhaha
  • hubbub

There was a [buzz/brouhaha/hubbub] as the CEO's resignation was announced.

  • 6
    hubbub and brouhaha both have the same problem as clamor: they're much louder than murmur or drone. Furthermore, they do not refer just to sound. They mean "uproar" and includes the sense of "ado" or "fuss": making a big deal over a trivial matter. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brouhaha.
    – verbose
    Jan 19, 2017 at 5:51
  • 2
    In the link you cited, hubbub and brouhaha refer to controversies, not the volume. Since they refer to "a state of social agitation," I think they capture the "restless and confused" notion that the OP is seeking.
    – rajah9
    Jan 19, 2017 at 14:24
  • 1
    I like hubbub but the dictionary defines it as "chaos, bedlam, mayhem" - I've always thought it was only a very low state of these things more like "bustling, burbling or murmuring".
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Jan 19, 2017 at 17:36
  • hubbub and murmur needn't be discontented. You could have a happy hubbub of people chatting quietly in a queue. Similar with murmur. Muttering is usually discontented. A buzz is more likely to be positive - 'there was quite a buzz about the new piece in the auditorium'. A brouhaha is more of an altercation.
    – Julian
    Jan 19, 2017 at 17:59
  • 'as' or 'when'?
    – Veo
    Jan 20, 2017 at 12:35

What about "hubbub"?

There was a certain hubbub among the crowd.

Hubbub, from M-W.com:

Noun - a loud mixture of sound or voices : a situation in which there is much noise, confusion, excitement, and activity

  • 3
    -1 A hubbub seems way too much for the asker's requirements. It's pretty loud.
    – DCShannon
    Jan 19, 2017 at 21:54
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    @DCShannon - While it can be loud, I've found in usage it's not necessarily very loud. Here's another definition, and another: "a mixture of continuing noises producing a feeling of busy activity or confused excitement" ...so it's certainly noise, then I guess it'd be how loud you define "noise". (Again, not saying I disagree, but it's not necessarily super loud).
    – BruceWayne
    Jan 20, 2017 at 17:35


(noun) 1. the indistinct sound of people whispering
speaking softly without vibration of the vocal cords

Example from Laumer, Keith

The pipes and reeds were shrilling furiously, and the susurration of Yillian conversation from the other tables rose ever higher in competition.

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 19, 2017 at 9:29
  • @AndrewLeach this is what I was talking about in meta. The automatic vote.
    – NVZ
    Jan 19, 2017 at 9:47

Grumble-According to Merriam-Webster

:to mutter in discontent
: to complain quietly about something : to talk in an unhappy way
: to make a low, heavy sound

  • the crowd grumbled their annoyance
  • could hear the grumbling among the crowd
  • a soft grumble spread through the crowd

For me a din has always had a negative connotation:


[in singular] A loud, unpleasant, and prolonged noise: ‘the fans made an awful din’


The word stir could be used here. For e.g.

The crowd began to stir.

Meaning in this context:

stir: a commotion.

e.g. "the event caused quite a stir"

  • 4
    If this is a quote from a reference work, please cite the work.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 19, 2017 at 9:29

You may use the word hum.


hum NOUN

1 [in singular]
A low, steady continuous sound:
‘a low hum of conversation’

There were wounded who groaned in their sleep or called out, and there was the soft, steady hum of conversation among the wounded who could not sleep.’


dull roar

a relatively quiet degree of noisiness

Neat that it is an oxymoron describing the muted (typically loud) noise of a crowd



Din may be the a good fit for what you describe, it's more than a low-grade murmur, but lacks the edginess of a clamor.


You could use "chatter" , see examples of usage in the Oxford Living Dictionary https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/chatter

Chatter does not imply a restless or confused state but it does convey animated conversation below the threshold indicating uproar.


A discordant murmuration was heard among the crowds.


a: being at variance, disagreeing, as 'discordant opinions'; b: quarrelsome, as 'a discordant family'


the act of murmuring: the utterance of low continuous sounds or complaining noises, as 'the murmuration of the crowds' — A. E. Richardson; 'ceaseless, inarticulate murmuration of prayer' — Frederic Prokosch


I like the use of murmur, one common idiom phrase I didn't see above was, hush:

"a hush fell over the audience."

Meaning: a sudden silence enveloped something or a group. As the conductor raised his arms, The coach shouted and a hush fell over the locker room. -- thefreedictionary.com

  • 1
    A hush would be the opposite of a murmur. A murmur is sound. A hush is the absence of sound.
    – DCShannon
    Jan 19, 2017 at 21:55

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