Moot vs. Mute

August 25th, 2022 in Grammar by April Michelle Davis 0

Mute can either be an adjective meaning “silent” or a verb meaning “to deaden or soften a sound.” However, it is rather common, especially in America, to hear someone mistakenly use this word to refer to something that is irrelevant. The word that they really want is moot. For example, it’s quite common to hear someone call something a “moot point,” meaning that the issue is either unresolved or pointless.

America and Britain

Of course, if you’re living in Britain, moot can refer to something that is arguable or debatable. Why the difference? In the 12th century, a moot was the name of a place in which an assembly of lawyers met. Eventually, a moot came to refer to a group of law students gathering to argue hypothetical cases. As a result, in the 16th century, a moot simply meant “an argument” while the adjective moot meant something which is debatable. The latter meaning happened to stick and the definition for moot remains the same in Britain. The point is, it’s important to exercise caution when using moot in your writing. Keep in mind who your audience is.

A Bit of Trivia:

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the high court of law for the British wizarding world is the Wizengamot. Rowling’s fantastical court actually takes its name from a historical Anglo-Saxon council of noblemen called the Witenagemot. In Old English, witan means “counselor” while gemot, a derivative of moot, means “assembly.”