• synonyms


adjective, shrill·er, shrill·est.
  1. high-pitched and piercing in sound quality: a shrill cry.
  2. producing such a sound.
  3. full of or characterized by such a sound: shrill music.
  4. betraying some strong emotion or attitude in an exaggerated amount, as antagonism or defensiveness.
  5. marked by great intensity; keen: the shrill, incandescent light of the exploding bomb.
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verb (used with or without object)
  1. to cry shrilly.
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  1. a shrill sound.
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  1. in a shrill manner; shrilly.
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Origin of shrill

1300–50; Middle English shrille (adj., v.); akin to Old English scrallettan to sound loudly; cognate with German schrill (adj.), schrillen (v.); compare Old Norse skrīll rabble
Related formsshrill·ness, nounshril·ly, adverbout·shrill, verb (used with object)un·shrill, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for shriller

earsplitting, piercing, raucous, deafening, sharp, discordant, strident, noisy, treble, penetrating, blaring, piping, thin, clanging, screeching, acute, blatant, cacophonous, high, metallic

Examples from the Web for shriller

Contemporary Examples of shriller

Historical Examples of shriller

  • The sound was repeated, but louder, clearer, shriller than before.

  • His voice lifted until it was its shriller, more natural falsetto.

  • The landlady grew all the shriller at that, and silenced my mother impatiently.

  • There were voices, too, of shriller intonation, that might have proceeded from the throats of women.

    The Boy Slaves

    Mayne Reid

  • It is a kind of lowing, but shriller, and not near so loud as that of the European Ox.

British Dictionary definitions for shriller


  1. sharp and high-pitched in quality
  2. emitting a sharp high-pitched sound
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  1. to utter (words, sounds, etc) in a shrill tone
  2. (tr) rare to cause to produce a shrill sound
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Derived Formsshrillness, nounshrilly, adverb

Word Origin for shrill

C14: probably from Old English scralletan; related to German schrill shrill, Dutch schrallen to shriek
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 shriller



late 14c., schrylle "high-pitched, piercing" (of the voice), probably related to Old English scralletan "to sound loudly" and of imitative origin (cf. Low German schrell, German schrill "piercing, shrill"). Related: Shrillness; shrilly (adv.).

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"to sound shrilly," c.1300, imitative (see shrill (adj.). Related: Shrilled; shrilling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper