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The Meaning of the Phrase “Moot Point”

In American English, a moot point is a completely unrelated issue to the main subject of discussion. In British English, on the other hand, a moot point is simply a debatable issue.

Valentina Dordevic
Valentina Dordevic

The “moot point” is one of those phrases in both British and American English but doesn’t have the same meaning in each variant.

In American English, a moot point is a completely unrelated issue to the main subject of discussion. In British English, on the other hand, a moot point is simply a debatable issue.

The phrase moot point has its roots in legal jargon. In fact, the words “moot” and “mootness” don’t usually appear anywhere except in the court stuff. The phrase “moot point” is an exception, but it doesn’t seem to make sense if we don’t know what a moot is in the legal systems of the United States and the United Kingdom.

In the US legal system, a case is moot when it reaches the point where taking additional legal actions makes no sense. When circumstances change, some things can be placed out of reach of the law. In such cases, further legal proceedings would only lead to wasting resources.

In the legal system of the UK, moot denotes an unresolved issue that remains open to discussion. In fact, this was the original meaning of the term “moot,” but it evolved on the other side of the Atlantic.

But if an issue is moot, it doesn’t always mean it is pointless to try to resolve it. A place where people frequently deal with mootness is called a moot court. The purpose of moot courts is academic—it gives law students a space to practice their knowledge and skills by resolving hypothetical cases.

Is it Moot Point or Mute Point?

There’s no doubt it is a moot point, not mute point. But some people tend to use the latter variant either because they’ve never heard of the word moot and writing “mute” instead of “moot” appears to have more sense to them—or because they’re trying to make a pun.

A moot point involves an issue and argument. A mute point would be a kind of silent issue, a frozen conflict, but that has nothing to do with the idiom “moot point.” The fact that some writers (mis)use this phrase and that it may get unnoticed by some editors doesn’t change a thing.

We can, of course, play with words and meaning and try to define a mute point. In addition to frozen conflict, we can use it when we talk about online meetings, and some participants are muted. So, a mute point could be a valid point that no one was able to hear. That can even happen in a physical office setting. Something people make a point, and no one notices it.

There are also situations where people who know the solution to a problem and are completely capable of making a point but decide to remain mute because they are underpaid. The language evolves all the time, and we’re yet to witness the appearance of some new terms and definitions. Mute point could be one of them.

Video examples:

Dog Soldiers (2002)
Last Scene Alive: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery (2018)
The House (2017)
EnglishIdioms & expressions

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.

Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.