causing or uttering screeches: screeching bats.
characteristic of screeches; harshly shrill: a screeching tone.


the act or sound of a person or thing that screeches.

Origin of screeching

First recorded in 1610–20; screech + -ing2, -ing1
Related formsscreech·ing·ly, adverb



verb (used without object)

to utter or make a harsh, shrill cry or sound: The child screeched hysterically. The brakes screeched.

verb (used with object)

to utter with a screech: She screeched her warning.


a harsh, shrill cry or sound: an owl's screech; the screech of brakes.

Origin of screech

1550–60; variant of obsolete scritch to scream; akin to screak
Related formsscreech·er, noun

Synonyms for screech

1. See scream. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for screeching

shout, shriek, yell, howl, squeal, outcry, shrill

Examples from the Web for screeching

Contemporary Examples of screeching

Historical Examples of screeching

  • There was a tremendous snarling and spitting and screeching.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • The one called Gramp was screeching invectives at the grinning bystanders.

  • "Bid them make an end of that screeching," she snapped to vent some of her fierce petulance.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • They said he had caused the fire in some way; be that as it may, he was screeching most horribly.

    Heart of Darkness

    Joseph Conrad

  • The retreat, I maintained—and I was right—was caused by the screeching of the steam whistle.

    Heart of Darkness

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for screeching




a shrill, harsh, or high-pitched sound or cry


to utter with or produce a screech
Derived Formsscreecher, noun

Word Origin for screech

C16: variant of earlier scritch, of imitative origin



noun Canadian

(esp in Newfoundland) a dark rum

Word Origin for screech

perhaps special use of screech 1
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 screeching



1570s, alteration of scritch (mid-13c., schrichen), possibly of imitative origin (cf. shriek). Related: Screeched; screeching. Screech-owl is attested from 1590s (scritch-owl is from 1520s).



1550s, from screech (v.). Earlier scritch (1510s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper