Moot vs. mute

As an adjective, moot originally meant arguable or subject to debate. With this sense of moot, a moot point was something that was open to debate. But, since around 1900, the adjective has gradually come to mean of no importance or merely hypothetical. This usage arose out of an exercise in U.S. law schools involving the discussion of “moot” cases to practice argumentation.

In the common phrase moot point, moot means (1) of no importance or (2) merely hypothetical. This is where moot most often gets confused with the adjective mute, which means (1) refraining from making sound or (2) silent.

Moot also has a verb definition—to bring up for debate—that is almost nonexistent in American English and rare in British English.


Mute point occasionally works as a bad pun, but it’s almost always a misspelling. For example, these writers use mute where they presumably mean moot:

Manager Joe Maddon brought in left fielder Russ Canzler as an extra infielder to hold the Gload at third, but the left-handed-hitting Naughton lined to right to make it a mute point. [American Chronicle]

If the NDC plans not to use violence in 2012, this whole issue becomes a mute point. [Ghana Web]

Although this could be a mute point since the downtown group will have plenty of time to catch up. [NFL]

24 thoughts on “Moot vs. mute”

  1. Ghana may reasonably be forgiven for the error, considering English is only one of 79 languages used in the country.  However, not surprisingly, the two erroneous American instances of “mute” arise within the context of sports journalism. If half the money we spend on athletic programs were redirected to academic programs, perhaps our athletes (and their followers) could properly use “moot” … and eventually make your blog topic “moot”!

  2. I’ve found it commonly used by some people to describe a valid point which does not change the outcome of a decision.

  3. so if the writer or speaker MEANT to say that a point “had no voice” or had fallen on deaf ears then the term “mute point” would/could have correct usage in our language. i use BOTH and when the intent is as stated above, I use mute.

    • Don’t think so brotha. I see where you are going, but just the fact that the word “point” is used is what makes your stagnant incorrect

          • I agree pretty lame of porpoiseboy, I would bet that ol’ Tim made his post immediately upon reading p-boy’s post. Ol’ p-boy can’t wrap his brain around that concept.

          • Point of relative discussion. Like being with a group of people and suddenly you chime in and start talking about something that was conversation hours ago. Everyone will look at you and think… really we have moved on to other things.

            Notice how this is 14 days after your reply… kind of makes you wonder what the conversation was even about in the first place doesn’t it? ;)

          • If this conversation is so old, then why did you post? Haven’t you moved on?

            you can’t wrap your head around the difference between a face to face
            conversation and posts on a discussion wall, then I cannot explain the
            concept to you.

          • I have… that is why I chimed in so late simply to give you and idea of how relative the discussion actually is or not. ;) Do you get it yet? Likely not.

          • Relevant, the word is relevant and our discussion IS relevant to the side issue we are discussing, regardless of how petty. There is still a difference in the timing and pace of face-to-face conversations vs. posting to a discussion wall.

          • Yep… like I care that I tossed in the wrong word or that I tossed in “and” instead of “an”… why didn’t you catch that one grammar cop?

          • If you don’t care that you misuse words, Why do you care that I didn’t “catch” what may have been a typo? If you don’t care that you look illiterate, then I will not correct the gross language errors in your comments.

            I thought we were having a discussion, now you are resorting to name-calling. What a winning strategy. I wish I had thought of it first.

          • Ha Ha…enjoyed your writing. You know, to us who have just read this stuff, it is fresh…and truth has no expiration date. BTW, I’m still wondering if I used the word correctly (mute) meaning the next sentence doesn’t follow if the sentence before it is not proven and they are linked together to make a point…whew…I think this is moooote, moote, mute.

          • And now I am replying to this 3 months later. This post is rather mute thought. Besides the clicking of the keyboard atm.

          • Current events? Really. We are discussing moot vs, mute. Please explain how this qualifies as a “current event”.

          • Well, this is more interesting reading than Facebook or listening to the news which is so perplexing these days…moot on…

          • I agree, following the threads kept me entertained until my wife get’s home from work. Peace to all for their input and keeping the arguments tame…

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