The phrase "moot point" is a common expression with an interesting origin story. It's also mispronounced all-too-often. Discover what "moot point" really means, so you'll know how to correctly understand this frequently used term.
In order to make sense of the phrase "moot point," it's important to first know the meaning of the word moot (mo͞ot). What does moot mean? It has a few different definitions and can function as three different parts of speech.
- moot as an adjective - debatable or subject to discussion but doesn't have a definitive answer; further discussion lacks practical value
- moot as a verb - to introduce a topic for discussion or debate; to render something not relevant for practical purposes
- moot as a noun - a hypothetical discussion about a matter of law for academic purposes; a mock trial in law school to consider a hypothetical legal case
A moot point is a topic or subject that is moot. The phrase "moot point" is used to indicate that there is no practical reason to continue discussing a particular topic, as it would be impractical to reach a satisfactory resolution. However, one could continue to discuss such a matter as an academic or hypothetical exercise.
- The phrase "moot point" can be used to describe an issue or topic that is open to argument or debate, but for which there is not a clear answer or solution.
- Saying that something is a moot point generally means that continuing to talk about it is a waste of time, either because it no longer matters or because an agreement will never be reached.
- A moot point is a topic that one could discuss for an indefinite timeframe yet still never reach a clear answer or solution.
The word moot was originally used to refer to a meeting or assembly of people brought together for governing or judicial purposes. The people assembled for the moot would consider issues that were up for debate. Such issues could be described as moot points because they were the topics being discussed by those participating in the moot.
This historical usage is now considered to be archaic, though it is relevant to how the word moot is used in the field of law. The legal definition of moot point refers to a legal question that is open to debate, as it has not been definitively determined via a court or legal precedent. As such, it is open to debate.
When saying the phrase moot point aloud, it's important to use the proper pronunciation. People sometimes incorrectly say mute (myo͞ot) point instead of moot (mo͞ot) point. The word mute has a completely different meaning than moot, so it should not be used in this context. (The word mute means silent or unable to speak.)
- correct pronunciation and word usage: moot point (mo͞ot pɔɪnt)
- incorrect pronunciation and word usage: mute point (myo͞ot pɔɪnt)
In the TV series Friends, the character Joey Tribbiani came up with another way to mispronounce moot point, leaving the "t" off of "moot" to end up with "moo point." While the topic of what cows might think of being included in such a conversation is an example of a moot point (since there would be no way to actually discover such a thing), it would still be incorrect to say "moo point."
To get a better idea of how to use moot point in conversations or writing, consider the example sentences below.
- Whether or not I would have been a good nurse is a moot point, as I have decided to become a teacher.
- Since John and I are getting divorced and don't have any kids, it would be a moot point to consider how we would interact as co-parents.
- Would Sue have been a good addition to our team? She declined our job offer, so that's a moot point.
- Since you have already made your decision, my opinion on the matter is a moot point.
- Do we have to keep going on and on about which political party is better? Can't we just agree that topic is a moot point and move on?
If you want to express that something is a moot point without actually using that phrase, consider substituting a synonym or similar term. The words and phrases below mean basically the same thing as moot point, depending on the context in which they are used.
- circular argument
- exercise in futility
- the point is moot
- waste of time
If you need to express that a point is the opposite of moot, consider one of the following antonyms.
- must be decided
The phrase "moot point" is just one of many common expressions in the English language that can be a bit challenging to understand and pronounce. Expand your knowledge of other turns of phrase by exploring more examples of common expressions and what they mean. From there, boost your pronunciation know-how by exploring the most often mispronounced words and phrases in the English language