Lionel,1905–75, U.S. critic and author.



verb (used with object)

to sing or play with a vibratory or quavering effect.
Phonetics. to produce (a sound) with a trill.
(of birds, insects, etc.) to sing or utter in a succession of rapidly alternating sounds.

verb (used without object)

to resound vibrantly, or with a rapid succession of sounds, as the voice, song, or laughter.
to utter or make a sound or succession of sounds resembling such singing, as a bird, frog, grasshopper, or person laughing.
to execute a shake or trill with the voice or on a musical instrument.
Phonetics. to execute a trill, especially with the tongue, as while singing, talking, or whistling.


the act or sound of trilling.
Music. a rapid alternation of two adjacent tones; a shake.
a similar sound, or succession of sounds, uttered or made by a bird, an insect, a person laughing, etc.
  1. a sequence of repetitive, rapid, vibratory movements produced in any free articulator or membrane by a rush of air expelled from the lungs and often causing a corresponding sequence of contacts between the vibrating articulator and another organ or surface.
  2. a speech sound produced by such a trill.

Origin of trill

1635–45; < Italian trillo quaver or warble in singing ≪ Germanic; compare Dutch trillen to vibrate, late Middle English trillen to shake or rock (something)



verb (used without object)

to flow in a thin stream; trickle.

verb (used with object)

to cause to flow in a thin stream.

Origin of trill

1300–50; Middle English trillen to make (something) turn, to roll, flow (said of tears, water) < Old Danish trijlæ to roll (said, e.g., of tears and of a wheelbarrow); compare Norwegian trille, Swedish trilla. See trill1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for trilling

quaver, vibrate, vibrato, roll, shake, sound, twirl

Examples from the Web for trilling

Historical Examples of trilling

  • The larks were trilling overhead, everything was humming and singing.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • Then voices, the high, trilling laugh of Climene floating upwards.


    Rafael Sabatini

  • A pensive quail piped an answer to the trilling call from the meadows.

    David Dunne

    Belle Kanaris Maniates

  • He heard her no longer talking to the dogs, trilling to the canary.

    Mary Gray

    Katharine Tynan

  • As he rides back through the woods, the birds are trilling among the trees.

    The Death Shot

    Mayne Reid

British Dictionary definitions for trilling



Lionel . 1905–75, US literary critic, whose works include The Liberal Imagination (1950) and Sincerity and Authenticity (1974)




music a melodic ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between a principal note and the note a whole tone or semitone above itUsual symbol: (written above a note) tr., tr
a shrill warbling sound, esp as made by some birds
  1. the articulation of an (r) sound produced by holding the tip of the tongue close to the alveolar ridge, allowing the tongue to make a succession of taps against the ridge
  2. the production of a similar effect using the uvula against the back of the tongue


to sound, sing, or play (a trill or with a trill)
(tr) to pronounce (an (r) sound) by the production of a trill

Word Origin for trill

C17: from Italian trillo, from trillare, apparently from Middle Dutch trillen to vibrate



verb, noun

an archaic or poetic word for trickle

Word Origin for trill

C14: probably of Scandinavian origin; related to Norwegian trilla to roll; see trill 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 trilling



1640s, from Italian trillio, triglio "a quavering or warbling in singing," probably of imitative origin. The verb is 1660s, from Italian trillare "to quaver, trill." Related: Trilled; trilling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper