Difference between Quiet and Silent

Key difference: Though the words quiet and silent are synonymous with each other, they do not mean the same. Quiet means that a surrounding environment is fairly peaceful except a little noise that lingers around. Whereas, silent means that there is absolutely no noise in the surroundings.

The words quiet and silent are often used interchangeably with one another. This is only natural, as there only appears a faint difference between the two on the surface. One has to delve into the semantics of these words in order to gain the knowledge of using them appropriately.

Quiet is often associated with a certain limit of noise in an environment. When the word quiet is mentioned, it doesn’t mean the complete absence of sound, but a reduction in it. Furthermore, when a person expects someone or something to be quiet, it means that he/she doesn’t mind a little sound being produced, unless it disturbs the person or starts hampering his/her concentration. Quiet can also mean something done discreetly, but this too will not be without a little noise being produced.

Contrastingly, the word silent doesn’t mean a decline in the noise produced. It in fact refers to the total absence of sound in the immediate surroundings. When a person uses the word silent, he/she implies that the noise emanating from someone or something is proving to be a major hindrance, which is why the person wants it to end completely. This understanding is also the premise of why we use proverbs such as ‘Pin-drop silence’ or ‘Silence is golden’, etc.

Also, silent is a term which is associated with a person who doesn’t reply or answer a question, or doesn’t participate in a conversation at all. Conversely, quiet is used to describe a person who does talk, but not wholeheartedly. People who are reticent by nature are often known as quiet and shy of behavior. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t talk at all. Whereas, someone who is being silent, simply means that he/she is choosing not to participate in a dialogue.

For example:

This car has a powerful yet quiet engine.

From the above sentence, one can understand that the car’s engine doesn’t make much noise. However, it cannot be that the engine doesn’t make noise at all. The sentence implies that the car being talked about in the sentence contains an engine that probably makes much noise than other car engines. Hence, the word quiet is used.

For example:

You have the right to remain silent.

In the sentence above, the speaker is conveying the listener about his right of not participating in a conversation. This implies that the listener has the right to utter no word at all. Hence, the word silent is used for this purpose, where there is absolute cessation of sound. 

Comparison between Quiet and Silent:

 

Quiet

Silent

Meaning

Quiet means that a surrounding environment is fairly peaceful except a little noise that lingers around.

Whereas, silent means that there is absolutely no noise in the surroundings.

 

Essential meaning

Quiet in essence means a partial reduction in noise.

Silence essentially means a complete cessation of noise.

Example of usage

The children have been told to play quietly.

The thief remained silent when he was caught red handed.

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