Is there a term/phrase that can be used to describe the answering of a question with such a tone that would indicate that the answer isn't as all it seems?

For example, if one person were to ask another person: 'how are you today?', to which they relied with: 'I'm okay' but their replied was with such a tone (a lowered tone, perhaps) that may suggest that they are not okay.

Ultimately, my question is whether or not there is a term that describes the tone used when answering a question may indicate that the answer given (like 'I'm okay') may not be strictly true.

I vaguely remember a tutor from my college days refer to this as something along the lines of 'lowered interjection' but as I cannot find any reference to this phrase online and so I was curious as to what the correct one is.

  • Do you mean "lower" in the sense of lower volume (like whispering) or lower frequency (like basso instead of tenor)? Or something else? In which case, what scale are you measuring Up and Down on? Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 16:45
  • Maybe you are thinking of high-rising terminal, AKA upspeak?
    – 1006a
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 23:15
  • muttering or mumbling - or perhaps a dispirited tone Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 10:39

3 Answers 3


below (one's) breath TDF

Quietly. Often used to describe an aside that one has muttered.

The words spoken are true, but the tone (inflection) suggests otherwise.


The term sotto voce is the term you're looking for:

Sotto voce (/ˈsɒtoʊ ˈvoʊtʃi, ˈsoʊ-, -tʃɛ, -tʃeɪ/;[1][2] Italian: [ˈsotto ˈvoːtʃe], literally "under the voice") means intentionally lowering the volume of one's voice for emphasis. The speaker gives the impression of uttering involuntarily a truth which may surprise, shock, or offend.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotto_voce


Possibly a type of voice from either this link or this one? Low, quiet, soft-spoken, or sotto voce sound right.

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