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verb (used without object)
  1. to utter a loud, sharp, piercing cry.
  2. to emit a shrill, piercing sound: The sirens and whistles screamed.
  3. to laugh immoderately or uncontrollably: The comedian had the audience screaming.
  4. to shout or speak shrilly, especially with harsh or exaggerated words: They screamed across the back fence.
  5. to play or sing in a high, loud, harsh manner.
  6. to be conspicuous or startling: That red dress really screams.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to utter with or as if with a scream or screams.
  2. to make by screaming: to scream oneself hoarse.
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  1. a loud, sharp, piercing cry: Her scream frightened off the burglar.
  2. a shrill, piercing sound: the scream of the tires as the car rounded the curve.
  3. Informal. someone or something that is hilariously funny: The movie was a scream.
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Origin of scream

1150–1200; 1905–10 for def 11; Middle English screamen (v.), Old English *scrǣman; akin to Old Norse skraumi chatterbox, braggart, skruma to jabber; sc- (for regular sh- as in Middle English shreame) from obsolete scritch to screech
Related formsout·scream, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for scream

See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1. Scream, shriek, screech apply to crying out in a loud, piercing way. To scream is to utter a loud, piercing cry, especially of pain, fear, anger, or excitement: to scream with terror. The word is used also for a little, barely audible cry given by one who is startled. Shriek usually refers to a sharper and briefer cry than scream; when caused by fear or pain, it is often indicative of more terror or distress; shriek is also used for shrill uncontrolled cries: to shriek with laughter. Screech emphasizes disagreeable shrillness and harshness, often with a connotation of lack of dignity: to screech approval at a rock concert. 9. outcry, shriek, screech, screak.

Scream, The

  1. a painting (1937) by Edvard Munch.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scream

yelp, wail, cry, screech, shriek, howl, hoot, laugh, roar, blare, shout, holler, yell, squeal, riot, guffaw, character, sensation, joker, wit

Examples from the Web for scream

Contemporary Examples of scream

Historical Examples of scream

  • At that she begins to scream, but the priest he wouldn't let go.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • She did not scream, but her face grew white and her eyes horror-stricken.

  • But for that scream of fear, the story of Mary Turner had ended there and then.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He said that children did nothing but scream: it was their nature, and did not mean that they were in trouble.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • When he found that he was held, Johnny was simply too mad to scream.

    Johnny Bear

    E. T. Seton

British Dictionary definitions for scream


  1. to utter or emit (a sharp piercing cry or similar sound or sounds), esp as of fear, pain, etc
  2. (intr) to laugh wildly
  3. (intr) to speak, shout, or behave in a wild or impassioned manner
  4. (tr) to bring (oneself) into a specified state by screamingshe screamed herself hoarse
  5. (intr) to be extremely conspicuousthese orange curtains scream, you need more restful colours in a bedroom
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  1. a sharp piercing cry or sound, esp one denoting fear or pain
  2. informal a person or thing that causes great amusement
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Word Origin for scream

C13: from Germanic; compare Middle Dutch schreem, West Frisian skrieme to weep
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

Word Origin and History for scream


late 12c., scræmen, of uncertain origin, similar to words in Scandinavian, Dutch, German, and Flemish (cf. Old Norse skræma "to terrify, scare," Swedish scrana "to scream," Dutch schreijen "cry aloud, shriek," Old High German scrian, German schreien "to cry"). Related: Screamed; screaming. Screaming meemies is World War I army slang, originally a soldiers' name for a type of German artillery shell that made a loud noise in flight (from French woman's name Mimi), extended to the battle fatigue caused by long exposure to enemy fire.

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mid-15c., from scream (v.).

And (as they say) lamentings heard i' th' Ayre; Strange Schreemes of Death. ["Macbeth," II.iii.61]

Shakespeare's spelling probably reflects "sk-" as spelled in words from Latin (e.g. school); he also has schreene for screen. Slang meaning "something that evokes a cry of laughter" is 1888; screamer in this sense is from 1831.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper