Etymology
Advertisement
silence (n.)
c. 1200, "muteness, state of being silent," from Old French silence "state of being silent; absence of sound," from Latin silentium "a being silent," from silens, present participle of silere "be quiet or still," of unknown origin. Meaning "absence of sound" in English is from late 14c.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
silence (v.)
1560s, intransitive, "become still or silent;" 1590s, transitive, "make silent," from silence (n.). Related: Silenced; silencing.
Related entries & more 
silencer (n.)
c. 1600, "person who silences," agent noun from silence (v.). Meaning "mechanism that stifles the sound of a motor or firearm" is from 1898.
Related entries & more 
silent (adj.)

c. 1500, "without speech, silent, not speaking," from Latin silentem (nominative silens) "still, calm, quiet," present participle of silere "be quiet or still" (see silence (n.)). Meaning "free from noise or sound" is from 1580s.

Of letters, c. 1600; of films, 1914. In the looser sense "of few words," from 1840. Phrase strong, silent (type) is attested from 1905. Silent majority in the political sense of "mass of people whose moderate views are not publicly expressed and thus overlooked" is first attested 1955 in a British context and was used by John F. Kennedy but is most associated in U.S. with the rhetoric of the Nixon administration (1969-74).

It is time for America's silent majority to stand up for its rights, and let us remember the American majority includes every minority. America's silent majority is bewildered by irrational protest. [Spiro T. Agnew, May 9, 1969]

In Victorian use, the phrase meant "the dead" (1874; compare Roman use of the noun plural of "silent" to mean "the dead"). Silence is golden (1831) is Carlyle's translation ["Sartor Resartus"] of part of the "Swiss Inscription" Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden. In one 14c. text Latin "one who is silent" is translated by a beere stille.

Related entries & more 
sh (interj.)
exclamation used to urge or request silence, 1847. The gesture of putting a finger to the lips to express silence is attested from Roman times. As a transitive verb from 1887; intransitive from 1925.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
deafening (adj.)

"very loud," 1590s, present-participle adjective from deafen (q.v.). Deafening silence "heavy and conspicuous silence," especially as a response to a question, is attested by 1830.

Related entries & more 
hist (interj.)
exclamation commanding silence, 1610s. Probably because the sound is both easy to hear and suddenly silent.
Related entries & more 
stillness (n.)
Old English stilnes "quiet, silence, peace, release, relaxation;" see still (adj.) + -ness.
Related entries & more 
muzzle (v.)

"to put a muzzle on, bind or confine the mouth of to prevent from biting or eating," early 15c., moselen, from muzzle (n.). Figurative use, "to gag, silence," is from 1610s. Related: Muzzled; muzzling.

Related entries & more 
faience (n.)
fine kind of pottery or earthenware, 1714, from French faïence (16c.), probably from Fayence, French form of Faenza, city in Italy that was a noted ceramics center 16c. The city name is Latin faventia, literally "silence, meditation," perhaps a reference to a tranquil location.
Related entries & more