Perhaps you say a bad joke or you make a really awkward noise, and everybody suddenly stares at you?

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    You'll have to clarify what it is that you're seeking, a mistake or silence?
    – vickyace
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 14:18
  • I'm seeking for a mistake when everybody suddenly shut up, like a Murphy's Law situation: "you say something stupid or do an awkward action at the precise moment everybody shut up".
    – mindOf_L
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:09
  • "A hush fell over the group" is a phrase to express this.
    – khaverim
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:22
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    The question body and the title doesn't really match up. Please edit to clarify the real question. (When reading the title only, I thought of a situation where someone recalled a bad memory and everybody else shuts up because of the simpathy)
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:37
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    Just to clarify further, are we to understand that you are not asking (as it first seemed) about a situation where everyone else stopped talking because you did something awkward? There is a different thing that happens often in comedies, not so much in real life, in which a character is in a room where multiple independent conversations are taking place, and by bad luck all other conversations coincidentally fall silent at the exact instant that the character loudly says something embarrassing. Is that what you want to describe?
    – David K
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 20:52

7 Answers 7


This would be an awkward silence.

An awkward silence is an uncomfortable pause in a conversation or presentation. The unpleasant nature of such silences is associated with feelings of anxiety as the participants feel pressure to speak but are unsure of what to say next.

  • Also awkward pause if you want to emphasize that there was conversation a moment ago. (Awkward silence can also be the starting state, for example when people haven't figured out how to introduce themselves or after introductions if they can't get a conversation started.)
    – 1006a
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 19:44

You could say that the room fell flat

If a joke, idea, or suggestion falls flat, it does not have the intended effect:

Cambridge Dictionary

While it is primarily used to describe what was said, it can also be used to describe the room the statement was made in.

Alternatively, you could say that there was a deafening silence

deafening silence
A noteworthy silence, or absence of response, especially one signifying disapproval or lack of enthusiasm.
The suggestion that they work through the holidays met with deafening silence.

  • Great answer. Fell flat is a phrase not that common but should be.
    – vickyace
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 14:48
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    quibble: I would say that the joke fell flat, or that the room fell silent, but I don't think you'd ever say that the room fell flat.
    – Brondahl
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 17:01
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    I agree with @Brondahl, the room falling flat sounds more like a structural catastrophe than a socially awkward situation.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 20:39
  • If everyone shut up because of what you said, it could be a stunned silence. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 21:46

Hopefully a useful contribution, though maybe not your preferred answer:

faux-pas - a slip or blunder in etiquette, manners, or conduct; an embarrassing social blunder or indiscretion.

(From dictionary.com)

This does not necessarily imply everyone stops talking and stares, though. Faux-pas describes the "really bad joke or awkward noise."


The word conversation-ender describes both the awkward statement and the pause in conversation that follows. I didn't find any better authoritative source than Urban Dictionary, but a Google search shows it is fairly commonly used.


A word, phrase or emotion that abruptly and awkwardly ends a conversation between two or more people. [spelling corrected]


I would describe it as a hush. From the Oxford English Dictioary:

A silence.

In particular, one will often say "a hush fell over the room." (The Free Dictionary, Idioms)


tumble weed

Describing unwanted silence and inactivity. Often used of a situation when one makes a statement that is ignored or ill-received from one’s audience. Gives the impression that a tumbleweed has passed through the room, as the resultant silence is likened to that of a desolate desert.



I've heard it called a pregnant silence - "silence" because there is no sound, "pregnant" because it is impregnated with relevance.

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    That's more commonly called a pregnant pause and is a long pause made to raise expectations that what's going to be said next is going to be important.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 19:28
  • @Blrfl +1. Good point. I agree that it is more commonly used than pregnant silence.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 8:41

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