Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search



From Late Middle English schrille, shirle, shrille (of a sound: high-pitched, piercing; producing such a sound),[1] possibly from the earlier shil, schille (loud, resounding; high-pitched, shrill; audible, clear; melodious, sweet-sounding), from Old English scill (sonorous sounding),[2] of Germanic origin.[3] The r in the word was introduced by analogy to Middle English skrīke, skrīken, scrēmen,[1] possibly to avoid confusion with non-Anglian forms of schelle (modern English shell) where Old English scill (sonorous sounding) and scill (shell) existed.

The word is cognate with Icelandic skella (crash, bang, slam), Low German schrell (sharp in taste or tone).[3]



shrill (comparative shriller, superlative shrillest)

  1. High-pitched and piercing.
    The woods rang with shrill cries of the birds.
  2. 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.
  3. Sharp or keen to the senses.
  4. (figuratively, derogatory) Especially of a complaint or demand: fierce, loud, strident.

Coordinate terms[edit]



shrill (third-person singular simple present shrills, present participle shrilling, simple past and past participle shrilled)

  1. To make a shrill noise.
    • 2017 November 10, Daniel Taylor, “Youthful England earn draw with Germany but Lingard rues late miss”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 28 March 2018:
      Jesse Lingard, another substitute, was only eight yards out when Harry Maguire’s knock-down fell for him but it was a wild finish and [Gareth] Southgate still had his head in his hands when the final whistle shrilled.
    • Spenser
      Break we our pipes, that shrill'd loud as lark.
    • Goldsmith
      No sounds were heard but of the shrilling cock.
    • L. Wallace
      His voice shrilled with passion.



shrill (plural shrills)

  1. 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 []



  1. 1.0 1.1 shrille, adj.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 April 2018.
  2. ^ shil(le, adj.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 April 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 shrill” (US) / “shrill” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.