I know that we usually mutter when we're annoyed, but what about the other situations? I mean, for example, is it odd to use "mutter" instead of "murmur" in the following context?

"I love you," she murmured.

  • 3
    Please add relevant dictionary materials. // A problem here is that plenty of Google hits appear for "I love you she muttered", but the standard of writing found in the works containing them is often questionable. // I'd consider that 'mutter' at least connotes discontent sufficiently to make this example sound distinctly odd. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


I wanted to clarify this for myself, and I found a good answer on EnglishForums.

'Mutter' is the normal one for 'under his breath'.

'Mutter' is usually complaining to yourself - if you've been told to do something but don't want to, but have to.

'Murmur' is quiet, similar to whisper, but not as conspicuous - for example if you wanted to make an ironic comment to a comapanion when you're meant to be quiet, you might murmur it.

'Mumble' is often used when shy or unwilling to tell someone something - e.g. a young child being told off my a teacher might mumble an answer to a question.

Your example works just fine, but either of these other options could fit better, depending on the greater context.

  • I would add that "mutter" might be half-spoken but intended to be heard. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 21:39
  • I don't understand how " 'Mutter' is usually complaining to yourself" fits with "Your example [('I love you,' she muttered)] works just fine". Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 22:44
  • Thank you all. I'd rather not use the verb "mutter" instead of the verb "murmur." As for the words "mutter" and "mumble," I think they are synonymous and interchangeable, aren't they?
    – A playgoer
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 9:59

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