Appalled by the Cambridge dictionary means: "having strong feelings of shock or disapproval". On the other hand, it also means: "horrified".

There exists some ambiguity for me about the exact meaning of: an appalled silence.

Does it mean:

  • A silence together with fear and distress
  • A silence resulting from a shock (possibly as a natural result of a shock)

What does it mean exactly?

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    What do you consider to be the two possible meanings? Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 10:05
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    Obviously, this is a transferred usage, the classic transferred epithet. 'Silence' is not a sentient agent, so can't be 'appalled' in the primary sense any more than a day can be 'proud' in 'It was a proud day for her parents'. Since it's not a very common pairing, you can't decide between your two readings (both make sense and 'apply' – as with the more usual 'stunned silence'). Is it helpful to try to ultra-analyse here? X happened. This appalled the people present. They were speechless. Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


There was an appalled silence usually implies that the people present were so horrified by something that had just happened that no-one could say anything. I suppose that is your second definition, but I don't consider that the two are mutually exclusive.

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