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I am looking for a word that describes disguising or hiding sound with other sound. Much in the same way that camouflage acts in hiding visual objects.

I ______ our conversation with loud music to avoid recording.

What could be used for hiding one sound under another ?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Sep 10, 2017 at 21:37
  • 4
    Voters might note that the question has been heavily modified from its original form, and some answers here were posted when the question appeared to be asking for a noun rather than a verb.
    – 1006a
    Sep 11, 2017 at 14:42
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    I see no issue with saying "I camouflaged our conversation with loud music to avoid recording." Sep 11, 2017 at 15:02
  • @EldritchWarlord: Initially I was looking for a word similar to camouflage but used in context of sound. But some folks here asked for an example sentence.
    – Rahul
    Sep 11, 2017 at 15:04
  • not sure if it makes sense in your scenario, but "What could be used for hiding one sound under another?" literally describes a common method of stenography (in the sense of, using the transport layer or a non-audible frequency along with a second, innocuous audible frequency such as noise/music to transmit a secret message), a form of plausibly deniable encryption: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography - and since it dates back to 440 BC, it doesn't have to use an electronic medium. Sep 11, 2017 at 21:01

14 Answers 14

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I muffled our conversation with loud music to avoid recording

This is the first word that comes to mind, and has a similar connotation with sound that camouflage has with sight.

From Oxford English, see the second definition with emphasis added.

muffle

VERB [WITH OBJECT]

1 Wrap or cover for warmth. 'everyone was muffled up in coats and scarves’

2 Cover or wrap up (a source of sound) to reduce its loudness. ‘the soft beat of a muffled drum’

From Merriam-Webster, see the first definition and the second part of the third definition with emphasis added.

muffled; muffling

transitive verb

1 to wrap up so as to conceal or protect : envelop

2 obsolete : blindfold

3 a: to wrap or pad with something to dull the sound. 'muffle the oarlocks'

3 b : to deaden the sound of

A comment by mahmud koya also noted this word and usage.

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  • 24
    I just wrote a comment about how this is the correct answer, but after re-reading the question, it's not. Muffling is dampening or deadening a sound but the OP is talking about using a louder sound to cover the original-volume sound. It's a subtle difference, but I wouldn't consider that "muffling". Same counter-argument to "muting" as mentioned by @cwallenpoole
    – Joe
    Sep 11, 2017 at 14:25
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Sep 12, 2017 at 21:15
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    Marking this as correct answer because I found this usage at many places.
    – Rahul
    Aug 4, 2020 at 9:20
122

you could consider "drowned out"

I drowned out our conversation with loud music to avoid recording.

For a single word "masked" would work equally well.

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  • 9
    masked, I like that... Sep 9, 2017 at 19:24
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    @AthomSfere I'm also a native American-English speaker, and this sounds completely natural.
    – Justin
    Sep 11, 2017 at 21:59
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    You might have to provide a little more context to make this work for the asker's specific need - normally when a sound is properly drowned out, it's completely inaudible. So you'd need to specify it's drowned out from the perspective of the person it's intended to be hidden from, and not from the perspective of the person it's intended to be heard by.
    – talrnu
    Sep 12, 2017 at 3:52
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    Mask is a term of art in audiology and psychoacoustics. Masking occurs in the ear when one sound activates the basilar membrane in such a way that the effects on the basilar membrane caused by another sound are obliterated. Lower frequency sounds of higher intensity mask higher frequency, lower intensity sounds. This principle is used in the MP3 encoding algorithm to throw away audio data that is normally rendered inaudible due to masking. Since recording devices are not ears, this may not work to create privacy. Sep 13, 2017 at 4:06
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    I think "mask" is the closer analogy. Drowning something out leaves the listener unaware what was said, but they still know something was said. That would be the equivalent of putting a huge screen in front of something: you don't see it anymore but you know it's there. Camouflaging something means hiding the fact that it's there, and that's what "masking" says. Sep 13, 2017 at 7:56
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The best word I can think of is sound masking, which can be used to disguise one’s voice, as camouflage can be used to disguise one’s appearance.

Wikipedia on Sound masking

Addition of sound created by special digital generators and distributed by normally unseen speakers through an area to reduce distractions or provide confidentiality where needed

Since sound masking is two words, you can use masking while talking in the context of sound.

Masking - The process by which one sound is used to obscure the presence of another.

Description from Acoustics First

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  • Overlay is also close enough. But since masking fits better I am gonna give it to you.
    – Rahul
    Sep 9, 2017 at 15:50
  • Sound masking is one (open compound) word, not two words
    – Stefan
    Sep 9, 2017 at 20:01
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    "masked" is absolutely the correct word for the example sentence given in the question.
    – Evan
    Sep 10, 2017 at 0:27
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    @KevinBradshaw yes, on reflection masking is a much more suitable word.
    – ESR
    Sep 11, 2017 at 10:54
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    Agreed. This is the very word audio engineers and musicians use to describe the phenomenon of one sound obscuring another. I've heard it used as "auditory masking", "sound masking", or simply "masking". Sep 11, 2017 at 16:15
30

"I obfuscated our conversation with loud music to avoid recording."

With the definition of the verb from the Oxford Dictionary:

To make obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

With potentially useful synonyms listed as:

obscure, confuse, make obscure/unclear, blur, muddle, jumble, complicate, garble, muddy, cloud, befog.

And more off the top of my head:

I concealed our conversation

I disguised our conversation

I veiled our conversation

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  • Interesting usage! I've asked this question.
    – uhoh
    Sep 10, 2017 at 5:18
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    This gets my vote. 'Muffling' brings to mind a hand over someone's mouth, or any other physical noise suppression. Obfuscation seems to be exactly what OP was looking for (not affecting the original sound, but simply covering it with another sound). Sep 13, 2017 at 5:40
  • Neither "obfuscated" nor "veiled" really work here. I prefer "conceal" (simple, unambiguous) and "disguise" (camouflage is also a form of disguise)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 17, 2017 at 7:41
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If you want to drown out a radio signal by overwhelming the channel with noise, it's called jamming. By analogy, you can do the same thing with sound waves:

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    This is good. I don't know why such a commonly used word didn't crossed my mind. Technically it's right because jamming signal means to interfere or block which consequently makes original signal unreadable. But jamming doesn't sound right for usage in my example: I jammed our conversation with loud music to avoid recording.
    – Rahul
    Sep 11, 2017 at 7:07
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    No, you're not jamming your conversation; you and your friend are still able to hear each other. "I played loud music to jam any possible recording attempts." Sep 11, 2017 at 7:26
  • This restructures the complete sentence, upon which words like block, prevent, cease would be suited too.
    – Rahul
    Sep 11, 2017 at 8:56
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    But jammed is much more specific. Block could mean a physical barrier, prevent is completely non-specific, and cease is just wrong (I would interpret it to mean ending the conversation). Sep 11, 2017 at 13:47
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Noise - irrelevant or superfluous information or activity, especially that which distracts from what is important (OED).

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    Yes. If it were active camouflage I would emphasise white noise, and if were passive camouflage I would emphasise background noise. But either way, some sort of noise.
    – PCARR
    Sep 9, 2017 at 14:02
  • Noise suggests distraction from actual one. I was looking for a word analogues to camouflage i.e to hide it or cover it so it becomes indistinguishable and unrecognizable.
    – Rahul
    Sep 9, 2017 at 14:41
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    This is good in a "signal to noise" sense.
    – JFA
    Sep 9, 2017 at 17:38
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    "I noised our conversation with loud music to avoid recording" ?? Sep 9, 2017 at 19:26
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    Unfortunately the clarifying edit has invalidated this answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 12, 2017 at 11:06
4

I've always thought of the verb suppress.

To suppress something means to curb, inhibit, or even stop it. If the sound of your boss moving in his chair sounds like gas, you’re going to have to learn how to suppress your giggles.

...

(verb) control and refrain from showing; of emotions, desires, impulses, or behavior

https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/suppress

(verb) to keep in or repress (a feeling, smile, groan, etc.)

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/suppress


The term is commonly used in the context of weaponry, as you can suppress the sound of gunfire with a suppressor.

(noun) A suppressor, sound suppressor, sound moderator, or silencer is a device attached to or part of the barrel of a firearm or air gun which reduces the amount of noise and visible muzzle flash generated by firing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressor

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I would like to suggest a two-word term disguised voice which is widely used in the sense as the OP intended, as per the Google Books Ngram Viewer. Also the following example sentence is from the M-W dictionary:

He tried to disguise his voice on the phone but I could tell it was him.

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  • disguise is a broader term for camouflage, mask, overlay.
    – Rahul
    Sep 9, 2017 at 14:45
  • I think disguise is a perfectly good term here.
    – Don Jewett
    Sep 12, 2017 at 22:36
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Overlay - to cover (something) with a layer of another.

I find this fit in context of sound. Because it's frequently used in music making where sound from two channels are mixed together. One overlaid over another with varying intensity.

My example becomes as follows.

I overlaid our conversation with loud music to avoid recording.

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  • An overlay would generally be used to compliment and augment the existing sound, the intention here is to limit the effective range of the conversation, which is a different thing. Sep 11, 2017 at 8:22
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I camouflage our conversation with loud music to avoid recording.

That's the sample sentence I'm suggesting. A work that you can use, quite rightly, is "camouflage". In this context, that word works great.

Here's another example of a sight-related word used in other contexts. Just as the word "beautiful" may first and foremost tend to refer to sight, but can also apply quite nicely to music, English has no problems taking a concept that is often used in one text, and using that concept in a totally different way. (I would say that doing such a thing is typically less atrociously egregious in concept than when a person "verbs" a noun like what this sentence just did.)

The most traditional use of the word "beautiful" may refer to sight, but the word can often mean "nice" or "pleasant" when referring to sound, or even something unrelated to senses, like the "beautiful work" of a job that was well done. Similarly, the word camouflage isn't at all restricted to only refer to sight. For instance, lies can often be effectively camouflaged by a bunch of true facts.

If you try to make your conversation appear to be part of background sound, by making the background sound at least as loud as your conversation, then your conversation will effectively be camouflaged by the the loud music.

People hearing or reading such a sentence will totally be able to understand the concept, without difficulty.

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"Camouflage" is perfectly applicable to sound. Also, to just about any situation in which something is hidden by a distracting pattern. Such usage is almost literal; it is a shallow metaphor at best.

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For obfuscation of sounds—even using other sounds—I'd use the verb “baffle.”

baffle

[...]

2 Restrain or regulate (a fluid, sound, etc.)

‘to baffle the noise further, I pad the gunwales’

[...]

‘Access is via exterior galleries along the street frontages, with bathrooms and kitchens placed here to baffle the street noise.’

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/baffle

Note: For written materials, I'd use “obliterate.” Unfortunately, in either case there is a more common usage of the word that may obliterate your intended meaning and baffle your audience.

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  • "Baffle" sounds like physical attenuation, which is not what is happening here. Sep 12, 2017 at 16:44
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    @200_success: It is technically what is happening at some level, but I take your point. In writing, it would be the difference between scribbling over a word with the same pen or placing a piece of tape over it (disrupting propagation of sound-waves with other sound-waves or with objects). I think this metaphorical stretching is better than some of the other options here, but that seems to be an unpopular belief and I'll live with that :) I would delete the answer, but I still think there's an off chance someone coming here with similar needs will think it's the perfect word. Sep 12, 2017 at 20:29
  • I quite like it!
    – Andrew
    Sep 24, 2017 at 21:09
-2

Given the sentence: I ______ our conversation with loud music to avoid recording.

A fit would be "washed out". "I strained to listen but their conversation was washed out by the sound of crashing waves".

However given: Camouflage is to sight as ____ is to sound?

A fit would be "mimicry". Although to mimic can be used for ridicule it is also used to mean to emulate something. Camouflage mimics the natural surroundings, so someone passing information by mimicking a bird would fit, although from greater context of the question this isn't what you mean.

From the context of the question is is clear that you want to use a descriptive word for using a white noise generator, and such a device has the effect of "washing" out sound making it difficult for recording.

Finally any word for noise in general: "Within the din our message was obscured from prying ears." or "Under the cacophony of sound; which went by the term 'digital hardcore', my room-mate secretly passed along the nuclear launch codes."

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  • Not necessarily white noise generator. Any other sound that makes it difficult to make out the original sound. For which masking and overlaying seems to be better fit.
    – Rahul
    Sep 9, 2017 at 16:38
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    From a technical tack, a white noise generator is like a one-time-pad, random letters chew up the meaning of the clear text in the same way that random frequencies chew up audio. Overlay with music is problematic in that a good recording device will still capture your conversation (although it wouldn't be understandable) but given a music file you can reverse it's effect and retrieve (filter)the underlying message where with a good white noise generator this shouldn't be possible. I just though I would mention this in case it's a spy story.
    – Quaternion
    Sep 9, 2017 at 17:08
  • Just as the camouflage restrains making out actual from surrounding I was looking for a word that would convey similar meaning but in context of sound. I found masking and overlaying to be more frequently used in such context hence I will go by that. Thanks a ton for your input.
    – Rahul
    Sep 9, 2017 at 18:22
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Destructively interfere... (Edit: with thanks to prompt from commenter, is verbifying the intent)

This is the scientific concept behind noise cancelling headphones. Basically, the headphones analyze the sound that comes in from outside the headphones (ambient noise in the room) and then emits a waveform that is an inverse of the ambient noise waveform.

https://youtu.be/oTjTXS40pqs

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    Destructive Interference describes what is occurring, but it isn't a verb that could be placed into the provided sentence. Verbifying might help: destructively interfered for instance. Sep 14, 2017 at 16:45
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    Hahaha... Scientifically correct and yet has the most negative score. Boom baby! That's going on my trophy wall.
    – Andrew
    Sep 24, 2017 at 21:07
  • Destructive interference with a signal only applies in specific places relative to the two emitters (or the emitter and the receiver). It wouldn't disguise or camouflage the desired noise in some places at all, and in others would make it easier to eavesdrop. "Scientifically correct" is nonsense.
    – Nij
    Mar 15, 2019 at 21:00

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