Moot and Mute

Commonly Confused Words

moot court
In many law schools, real lawyers and judges are called on to preside at moot court competitions. (Spencer Grant/Getty Images)

The adjectives moot (rhymes with boot) and mute (rhymes with cute) are two different words that are commonly confused.

Definitions

As an adjective, moot refers to something that is debatable or something that is of no practical importance.

As an adjective, mute means unspoken or unable to speak.

Also see the usage notes below.

Examples

  • "She successfully defused one argument by pointing out that a controversial proposal was moot because a date had passed."
    (Betsy Leondar-Wright, Missing Class. Cornell University Press, 2014) 
  • "I wanted to say to them, No human being is illegal. But I stood there mute, salty tears sliding down my face."
    (Demetria Martinez, The Block Captain's Daughter. University of Oklahoma Press, 2012)
     

Usage Notes

  • "A moot point was classically seen as one that is arguable. A moot case was a hypothetical case proposed for discussion in a 'moot' of law students (i.e., the word was once a noun). In U.S. law schools, students practice arguing hypothetical cases before appellate courts in moot court.

    "From that sense of moot derived the extended sense 'of no practical importance; hypothetical; academic.' This shift in meaning occurred about 1900 <because the question has already become moot, we need not decide it.> Today, in American English, that is the predominant sense of moot Theodore M. Bernstein and other writers have called this sense of the word incorrect, but it is now a fait accompli, especially in the set phrase moot point. To use moot in the sense 'open to argument' in modern American English is to create an ambiguity and to confuse readers. In British English, the transformation in sense has been slower, and moot in its older sense retains vitality."
    (Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage, Oxford University Press, 2003)
  • "Moot in British English means arguable, doubtful, or open to debate. Americans often use it to mean hypothetical or academic, i.e. of no practical significance."
    (The Economist Style Guide, Profile Books, 2005)

Practice

(a) "Without a doubt, one of the epicenters of competition has to be Centre Court at Wimbledon.

. . . It's terribly lonely out there. Even the players' coaches are supposed to remain _____, distant, and removed. This is a temple to competitive agony and ecstasy."
(Wess Stafford, Too Small to Ignore. Waterbrook, 2005)


(b) Because medical bills ate up his estate, the inheritance issue became a _____ point.

 


Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

Answers to Practice Exercises: Moot and Mute

(a) "Without a doubt, one of the epicenters of competition has to be Centre Court at Wimbledon. . . . It's terribly lonely out there. Even the players' coaches are supposed to remain mute, distant, and removed. This is a temple to competitive agony and ecstasy."
(Wess Stafford, Too Small to Ignore. Waterbrook, 2005)


(b) Because medical bills ate up his estate, the inheritance issue became a moot point.



Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Moot and Mute." ThoughtCo, Dec. 20, 2016, thoughtco.com/moot-vs-mute-1689583. Nordquist, Richard. (2016, December 20). Moot and Mute. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/moot-vs-mute-1689583 Nordquist, Richard. "Moot and Mute." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/moot-vs-mute-1689583 (accessed November 22, 2017).