[sib-uh-luh nt]


Phonetics. characterized by a hissing sound; noting sounds like those spelled with s in this [th is] /ðɪs/, rose [rohz] /roʊz/, pressure [presh-er] /ˈprɛʃ ər/, pleasure [plezh-er] /ˈplɛʒ ər/, 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 formssib·i·lance, sib·i·lan·cy, nounsib·i·lant·ly, adverbnon·sib·i·lance, nounnon·sib·i·lan·cy, nounnon·sib·i·lant, adjective, nounnon·sib·i·lant·ly, adverbsub·sib·i·lance, nounsub·sib·i·lan·cy, nounsub·sib·i·lant, adjective, nounsub·sib·i·lant·ly, adverbun·sib·i·lant, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for sibilance

catcall, hoot, derision, buzz, contempt, boo, sibilance

Examples from the Web for sibilance

Historical Examples of sibilance

  • 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

  • So now he puckered his lips to the sibilance of a canoe-song, and waited.

    The Silent Places

    Steward Edward White

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

  • She sighed, and the sibilance of it echoed with a strange lingering note between those high gray walls.


    George Looms

  • It was a gentle sound, but with a sibilance that held a threat of danger—like the hiss of a gigantic serpent.

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 soundthe sibilant sound of wind among the leaves


a sibilant consonant
Derived Formssibilance or sibilancy, nounsibilantly, adverb

Word Origin for sibilant

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

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.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sibilance in Medicine




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.