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1602; altered with expressive vowel lengthening from earlier skrech (1577), variant of obsolete scritch, from Middle English skriken, shrichen, schrichen (1250), from Old English (attested as scriccettan) and Old Norse skríkja, both from Proto-Germanic *skrīkijaną (compare Icelandic skríkja, Old Saxon scricōn, Danish skrige, Swedish skrika), derivative of *skrīhaną (compare Middle Dutch schriën, German schreien, Low German dial. schrien, schriegen), ultimately of imitative origin.



screech (countable and uncountable, plural screeches)

  1. A high-pitched strident or piercing sound, such as that between a moving object and any surface.
  2. A harsh, shrill cry, as of one in acute pain or in fright; a shriek; a scream.
    • 1826, Mary Shelley, The Last Man, volume 3, chapter 6
      That the night owl should sreech before the noonday sun, that the bat should wheel around the bad of beauty [...]
  3. (Newfoundlander, uncountable) Newfoundland rum.
  4. A form of home-made rye whiskey made from used oak rye barrels from a distillery.

Derived terms[edit]



screech (third-person singular simple present screeches, present participle screeching, simple past and past participle screeched)

  1. To make such a sound.
    • 2004 April 15, “Morning swoop in hunt for Jodi's killer”, in The Scotsman[1]:
      AS THE residents of the quiet Midlothian housing estate prepared for the day ahead, the early-morning stillness was disturbed by the sound of screeching brakes and slamming doors.
  2. (intransitive, figuratively) to travel very fast, as if making the sounds of brakes being released
    • 2011 December 12, Sid Lowe, “Víctor Valdés epitomises Barcelona's bravery as Real Madrid falter”, in the Guardian[2]:
      You've got to admire their balls. Real Madrid screeched after them: an entire herd, powerful and co-ordinated, salivating and breathing hard, murder in their eyes. So Barcelona moved the ball on, away from them. Forced back, it was played into Víctor Valdés, the goalkeeper, who slotted it to Carles Puyol, who gave it back again.