From Late Middle English schrille, shirle, shrille (“of a sound: high-pitched, piercing; producing such a sound”), possibly from the earlier shil, schille (“loud, resounding; high-pitched, shrill; audible, clear; melodious, sweet-sounding”), from Old English scill (“sonorous sounding”), of Germanic origin. The r in the word was introduced by analogy to Middle English skrīke, skrīken, scrēmen, possibly to avoid confusion with non-Anglian forms of schelle (modern English shell) where Old English scill (“sonorous sounding”) and scill (“shell”) existed.
- High-pitched and piercing.
- The woods rang with shrill cries of the birds.
- 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, prologue], page 77, column 1:
- 1812, Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. A Romaunt, London: Printed for John Murray, 32, Fleet-Street; William Blackwood, Edinburgh; and John Cumming, Dublin; by Thomas Davison, White-Friars, OCLC 22697011, canto I, stanza XIII.4, page 11:
- Let winds be shrill, let waves roll high, / I fear not wave nor wind; / Yet marvel not, Sir Childe, that I / Am sorrowful in mind; […]
- Having a shrill voice.
- 1872, M[ary] E[lizabeth] Braddon, “A Dread Revelation”, in Charlotte’s Inheritance. A Novel (Harper’s Library of Select Novels; no. 311), New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, publishers, Franklin Square, OCLC 318387595, book VIII (A Fight against Time), page 105, column 1:
- "It is Miss Halliday!" cried the house-maid, as she opened the door. "And oh my," she added, looking back into the hall with a sorrowful face, "how bad she do look!" […] "Oh, don't she look white!" cried a shrill girl with a baby in her arms.
- Sharp or keen to the senses.
- (figuratively, derogatory) Especially of a complaint or demand: fierce, loud, strident.
- To make a shrill noise.
- 2017 November 10, Daniel Taylor, “Youthful England earn draw with Germany but Lingard rues late miss”, in The Guardian, London, archived from the original on 28 March 2018:
- Break we our pipes, that shrill'd loud as lark.
- No sounds were heard but of the shrilling cock.
- L. Wallace
- His voice shrilled with passion.
shrill (plural shrills)
- A shrill sound.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Edmund Spenser to this entry?)
- 2015, Cliff Schexnayder, Builders of the Hoosac Tunnel
- The shrill of the whistle from the locomotive “Charlestown” announced the arrival of the first train into Fitchburg on 5 March 1845 […]