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I'm trying to think of a word that is somehow alluding me.

Imagine two people are speaking loudly, but then a third person begins shouting even louder. The third persons voice has made the other two voices seem smaller and less significant, maybe even more cowering.

You could say his voice SOMETHING their voices.

It's not diminished, or dominate. There is another phrase or word I cannot remember.

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    "Elude" is to escape from you, like this word is. "Allude" is to indirectly call attention to something. – Nigel Touch May 11 '20 at 13:52
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Based on the title of the question (which uses the word "smaller") I would have suggested dwarf:

dwarf (verb): Cause to seem small or insignificant in comparison. (from [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dwarf])1.

While I have, on occasion, read about a "big" and maybe even a "small" voice, those wouldn't be my first choice of words. I'm more used to hearing voice described as "loud" or "soft." In that sense I don't like my own answer. I'm submitting it anyway since the question is specifically looking for words about relative size (rather than relative loudness).

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  • +1 "dwarfed" fits the title question perfectly. What is the difference between volume and size, BTW? – Conrado May 10 '20 at 3:17
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    @Conrado: I wasn't clear. I didn't stop to think that volume has two meanings. One has to do with the amount of space occupied (and is related to size). The other has to do with loudness (e.g, the volume control on a radio). I was thinking of the 2nd meaning. I'll edit the reply to clarify, thanks for pointing out the conflicting meanings. – Syntax Junkie May 10 '20 at 3:41
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The general question is answered by the metaphorical sense of eclipse.

eclipse verb (IMPORTANCE) [ T often passive ]

...

(2) to make another person or thing seem much less important, good, or famous:

  • The economy has eclipsed all other issues during this election campaign.

[Cambridge English Dictionary]

For sounds, it is not a particularly good metaphor.

You'd probably use drown/ed out.

drown out Verb [[multi-word] [transitive]] (idiomatic)

To cover, obscure, or hide by being louder than.

  • He uses the music to drown out other noises around him.

[Your Dictionary]

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    yes, drowned out is what I was looking for, thanks. – neilH May 9 '20 at 15:06
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You say:

"It's not diminished, or dominate. There is another phrase or word I cannot remember."

Since you want something that applies to voices, and is similar to the two words you mention, I would use overpower:

[Merriam-Webster]
2 : to affect with overwhelming intensity
// the stench overpowered us

In other words:

You could say his voice overpowered their voices.


Most likely the reason you would have thought of it as a phrase is because it's composed of two individual words over and power.

It also applies equally to every sense, as well as other things, so it can be used in almost any situation.

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How about overwhelm? From M-W:

overwhelm: to overcome by superior force or numbers

From Dictionary.com:

overwhelm: to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything

Your example:

You could say his voice overwhelmed their voices.

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  • Though we appreciate your contribution, I don't think that example sounds like a correct sentence from a native speaker. – piojo May 11 '20 at 7:28
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    @piono It is a correct sentence from a native speaker. – Richard Kayser May 11 '20 at 13:07
  • I was not clear. What I meant is that the word, as used, doesn't match any dictionary definition I could find, though it would work if you were talking about waves or something else more substantial than sound. – piojo May 11 '20 at 14:52
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    @piojo Fair enough, but I see no problem with one sound overwhelming another, one taste overwhelming another, one smell overwhelming another, the effect of X overwhelming the effect of Y, et cetera. To go a little further, one might say that the effect of the sound waves emitted by X on the ear drums of those present overwhelmed the effects of the sound waves emitted by Y on the ear drums of those present, which one might edit with no loss of clarity to "X's voice overwhelmed Y's voice." Thanks for the exchange. – Richard Kayser May 12 '20 at 12:27
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    @piojo We're going to have to end out exchange. Not completely sure, but the answer to your first question is probably no, and the answer to your second question is probably yes. In saying that "The usage of overwhelm swamps [that of] overshadow", you are implying that usage is measured by the number of references, say. By the same token, in saying that "X's voice overwhelmed Y's voice", I am implying that voice is measured by the amplitude of the associated sound waves. – Richard Kayser May 12 '20 at 15:26
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Undermine: to make someone less confident, less powerful, or less likely to succeed, or to make something weaker, often gradually.

Examples:

  • The president has accused two cabinet members of working secretly to undermine his position/him.
  • Criticism just undermines their confidence. — Cambridge English dictionary

You could also say outshine, nerf (v), outstrip or transcend - depends on the context.

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  • To undermine is to act against someone. – piojo May 11 '20 at 7:27

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