Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.
sound someone out
to try to find out what someone thinks (about something). I don't know what Jane thinks about your suggestion, but I'll sound her out. please sound out everyone in your department.
sound something out
to pronounce the letters or syllables of a word as a means of figuring out what the word is. (Usually said to a child.) This word is easy, Bobby. Try to sound it out.
sound somebody outalso sound out somebody
to carefully discover what someone thinks or knows I thought it might be good to sound him out about having you come to work for us. His policy was to sound out top business leaders before making any new economic proposals.
Usage notes: used to describe a way of asking about someone's opinions without upsetting or angering them
Seek the views or intentions of, as in We'd better sound out Mom about who's using the station wagon, or Let's sound out the staff before we decide which week we should close for vacation. This expression derives from sound meaning "to measure the depth of water by lowering a line or lead." It was transferred to other kinds of inquiry in the late 1500s, but out was not added for several centuries.
1. To pronounce something slowly and carefully: The student practiced sounding out the English vowels. I sounded the phrase out until I could say it correctly.
2. To pronounce the letters of some word slowly and in sequence in order to arrive at the pronunciation or meaning of the whole: If you don't know the word, try to sound it out. I tried to sound out the word, but its spelling didn't match its pronunciation.
3. To examine or investigate the opinion or nature of someone or something: The company conducted a survey to sound out public opinion. I tried to sound them out before asking for the favor so that I wouldn't put them in an awkward position.
4. To project a sound: The bell sounded out at midnight.