[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

Examples from the Web for sibilant

Historical Examples of sibilant

  • "We have awaited your coming," she said in her sibilant voice.

    Priestess of the Flame

    Sewell Peaslee Wright

  • Two letters, S and O, a sibilant and a vowel, of which no further explanation can be given.

  • When they spoke Universal, their voices were sibilant, but not nearly so inhuman.

    The Colors of Space

    Marion Zimmer Bradley

  • It seemed as if that low, stealthy, sibilant whispering was going on forever.

    Shoe-Bar Stratton

    Joseph Bushnell Ames

  • A sibilant sound from the detective's lips took me to his side.

    The Motor Pirate

    George Sidney Paternoster

British Dictionary definitions for sibilant



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 sibilant

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

sibilant 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.