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[sib-uh-luh nt] /ˈsɪb ə lənt/
Phonetics. characterized by a hissing sound; noting sounds like those spelled with s in this
[th is] /ðɪs/ (Show IPA)
[rohz] /roʊz/ (Show IPA)
[presh-er] /ˈprɛʃ ər/ (Show IPA)
[plezh-er] /ˈplɛʒ ər/ (Show IPA)
and certain similar uses of ch, sh, z, zh, etc.
Phonetics. a sibilant consonant.
Origin of sibilant
1660-70; < Latin sībilant- (stem of sībilāns), present participle of sībilāre to hiss), equivalent to sībil(us) a hissing, whistling (of imitative orig.) + -ant- -ant
Related forms
sibilance, sibilancy, noun
sibilantly, adverb
nonsibilance, noun
nonsibilancy, noun
nonsibilant, adjective, noun
nonsibilantly, adverb
subsibilance, noun
subsibilancy, noun
subsibilant, adjective, noun
subsibilantly, adverb
unsibilant, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sibilance
Historical Examples
  • She sighed, and the sibilance of it echoed with a strange lingering note between those high gray walls.

    Stubble George Looms
  • Her clan took the word up, and for a time the sibilance of it was like a hiss in the room.

    The Imitator Percival Pollard
  • There was not that sibilance and thunder that had turned me a bit gray inside at first sight of the Eagle.

    The River and I John G. Neihardt
  • So now he puckered his lips to the sibilance of a canoe-song, and waited.

    The Silent Places Steward Edward White
  • His voice, its guttural note alternating with a sibilance on certain words, betrayed no traces of agitation.

  • He nodded without looking at me, and with some sibilance of excuse, read the message.

    The Professor's Mystery Wells Hastings
  • It was a gentle sound, but with a sibilance that held a threat of danger—like the hiss of a gigantic serpent.

  • Then the breaking of a twig and the sibilance of whispering voices—two of them—perhaps more.

    The Vagrant Duke George Gibbs
British Dictionary definitions for sibilance


(phonetics) relating to or denoting the consonants (s, z, / ʃ /, / ʒ /), all pronounced with a characteristic hissing sound
having a hissing sound: the sibilant sound of wind among the leaves
a sibilant consonant
Derived Forms
sibilance, sibilancy, noun
sibilantly, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Latin sībilāre to hiss, of imitative origin; compare Greek sizein to hiss
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sibilance



1660s, from Latin sibilantem (nominative sibilans), present participle of sibilare "to hiss, whistle," possibly of imitative origin (cf. Greek sizein "to hiss," Lettish sikt "to hiss," Old Church Slavonic svistati "to hiss, whistle"). Related: Sibilance; sibilation (1620s).


"speech sound having a hissing effect," 1772, from sibilant (adj.).



"speech sound having a hissing effect," 1772, from sibilant (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sibilance in Medicine

sibilant sib·i·lant (sĭb'ə-lənt)
Of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound like that of (s) or (sh).

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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