Moot versus Mute

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When to use ‘moot’ and ‘mute’

These two words are often confused, and they look and sound quite similar. Their meanings, however, are quite different. The word ‘moot’ means irrelevant or not real, and ‘mute’ means unable to speak or make noise.

The meaning of ‘moot’

The word ‘moot’ is used to mean irrelevant, not applicable or not real. The phrase ‘moot point,’ meaning that the argument, or point, does not apply because the situation it assumes does not exist and is not expected to exist, is common. In law school, students often participate in ‘moot court’, or a practice courtroom experience that does not involve a real trial. In the incorrect example below, the word ‘moot’ is used incorrectly to mean ‘unable to speak’. The proper word for this situation is ‘mute’. In the correct example, the word ‘moot’ is used appropriately to mean that the small green head’s wishes about the concert are irrelevant.

INCORRECT: The robot can open his mouth, move his tongue, and lip sync with the best of them, but he makes no sound because he is completely moot.

CORRECT: Whether the small green head wants to go to the concert is moot, as he does not have the legs required to walk there.

The meaning of ‘mute’

The adjective ‘mute’ means unable to speak or make noise. In the incorrect example below, the word ‘mute’ is used to mean ‘irrelevant’. This is erroneous, and the word ‘moot’ is correct instead. In the correct example, ‘mute’ is used properly to mean ‘unable to speak.’

INCORRECT: Whether the robot head has already eaten is a mute point, as he does not stop screaming until somebody feeds him his dinner.

CORRECT: I thought the green head was mute until he opened his mouth and started shouting commands at people on the street.