Word Confusion: Moot Point versus Mute Point

Posted January 26, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I frequently…hmmm, not frequently time-wise, but encounter-wise. Most authors who use m— point are using the mute version. And that doesn’t work. Mostly because there is no such phrase, in fact, it’s not even a moot point. So y’all’ll have to stay mute on that point.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Moot Point versus Mute Point” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Moot Point Mute Point
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: moot point; Merriam-Webster: moot

 Moot Court Hall, Al-Ameen College of Law

“Moot Court Hall” is Augustus Binu’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

White swan swimming in dark waters

“Schwan” is assumed to be by Dickbauch~commonswiki based on copyright claims. It’s under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0license, via Wikimedia Commons

Cygnus olor is a mute swan.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1; Noun; Verb 1, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: moots
Past tense or past participle: mooted
Gerund or present participle: mooting

Adjective 3; Noun 3, 4; Verb, transitive 3

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: mutes
Past tense or past participle: muted
Gerund or present participle: muting

moot point

A debatable question, an issue open to argument

  • An irrelevant question, a matter of no importance
  • Subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty
  • Not admitting of a final decision
  • Of little or no practical value, meaning, or relevance
  • Purely academic
  • Debatable
  • Doubtful

[Chiefly Law] Not actual

  • Theoretical
  • Hypothetical

[Historical] An assembly held for debate, especially in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times

  • A regular gathering of people having a common interest

[Law] A mock trial set up to examine a hypothetical case as an academic exercise

Verb, intransitive:
To dispute

  • Plead

Verb, transitive:
Usually be mooted

Raise a question or topic for discussion

  • Suggest an idea or possibility

To reduce or remove the practical significance of

  • Make purely theoretical or academic

[Archaic] To argue a case, especially in a mock court

mute point is incorrect

Refraining from speech or temporarily speechless

  • Not expressed in speech
  • Characterized by an absence of sound
  • Quiet

[Dated or offensive; of a person] Lacking the faculty of speech

[Of a letter] Not pronounced

[Dated or offensive] A person lacking the faculty of speech.

  • [Historical; in some Asian countries] A servant who was deprived of the power of speech
  • [Historical] An actor in a dumbshow
  • [Historical] A professional attendant or mourner at a funeral

A clamp placed over the bridge of a stringed instrument to deaden the resonance without affecting the vibration of the strings

  • A pad or cone placed in the opening of a brass or other wind instrument

A device on a television, telephone, or other appliance that temporarily turns off the sound

A pack of hounds 4

Verb, transitive:
Deaden, muffle, or soften the sound of

  • Muffle the sound of (a musical instrument), especially by the use of a mute
  • Reduce the strength or intensity of
Whether Shakespeare actually wrote the poem remains a moot point among critics.

It’s a moot point whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Whether the temperature rise was mainly due to the greenhouse effect was a moot point.

It is moot whether this phrase should be treated as metaphor or not.

Whether that was the cause of their troubles is a moot point.

In practical terms, the issue of her application is moot because the deadline has passed.

They’ll be holding the moot next quarter moon.

You guys ready for the moot next week?

The Ents in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings held their own Ent moot.

Verb, intransitive:
The idea was first mooted in the 1930s.

“And it was they, not the British, who slapped down any suggestion of democratic reform when it was quietly mooted by British colonial officers in the 1950s.” – Ian Buruma, New Republic, 24 Sept 2001

Conservatives had shouted down the proposal when it was first mooted.

The issue of whether a person’s nature or upbringing is more important continues to be mooted by experts and laymen alike.

Verb, transitive:
Sylvia needed a vacation, and a trip to Ireland had been mooted.

“… he looked for an easy way out. A spot in the stateside Guard would have suited him fine; in the event, he dodged and weaved until a low draft number came along to moot his problem.” – Hendrik Hertzberg, New Yorker, 16 & 23 Oct 2000

“And then the word comes of Ted’s inoperable pancreatic cancer, and death moots the long conflict.” – Richard Rhodes, New York Times Book Review, 24 Dec 2000

Irene, the talkative one, was now mute.

She gazed at him in mute appeal.

The great church was mute and dark.

Don’t mind him; he’s mute.

A mute e is generally dropped before suffixes that begin with a vowel.

They’re all a bunch of mutes.

The Ottoman Turks preferred mutes as guards.

“The device of using a mute to convey essential facts by dumbshow became a regular feature of melodramas (Dumbshow).

“There would also be fewer professional attendants in a middle-class funeral, perhaps only one mute, the six bearers but no pages (The Regency Way of Death: Furnishing the Funeral).

In this passage I want the strings to use their mutes with the trumpets using their mutes in the passage that follows.

Jen thinks she’s worn down the mute for her sax.

She put the remote on mute.

The abbot had a mute of hounds.

Verb, transitive:
Her footsteps were muted by the thick carpet.

He turns the set on, mutes the sound, but flicks through the channels.

No, the trumpets are to be muted, not the violins.

His professional contentment was muted by personal sadness.

Noun: mooter, mootness Adjective: muter, mutest
Adverb: mutely
Noun: muteness
History of the Word:
Old English mōt meaning assembly or meeting and mōtian meaning to converse is of Germanic origin.

1 The adjective was originally an attributive noun use (see moot court) and dates from the mid-16th century.

2 The current verb sense dates from the mid-17th century.

3 Middle English from the Old French muet is a diminutive of mu, from the Latin mutus.

4 Late Middle English from the Anglo-Norman mut, mute, moute meaning pack of hounds trained for hunting is from the Latin movere meaning to move.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Sitting in on an Ent Moot” by Scott Darbey from Canada is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.