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; […]
- 1818, [Mary Shelley], chapter VI, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. In Three Volumes, volume III, London: Printed [by Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, OCLC 830979744, page 118:
- But I discovered no trace of him, and was beginning to conjecture that some fortunate chance had intervened to prevent the execution of his menaces; when suddenly I heard a shrill and dreadful scream.
- 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.
- 2010 October 14, Jacqueline Friedrich, “Son follows in late winemaker Didier Dagueneau’s storied footsteps”, in Los Angeles Times, archived from the original on 1 December 2017:
- Rather than shrill, feisty whites tasting of grass, green beans, gooseberry or pipi de chat (the somehow more polite French term for cat's pee), [Didier] Dagueneau's Sauvignons were statuesque, beautifully balanced wines with flavors reminiscent of citrus zests, apricot, fig, passion fruit and minerals.
- (figuratively, derogatory) Especially of a complaint or demand: fierce, loud, strident.
- 1863, J[oseph] Sheridan Le Fanu, “In which Mr. Dangerfield Visits the Church of Chapelizod, and Zekiel Irons Goes A-fishing”, in The House by the Church-yard [...] In Three Volumes, London: Tinsley, Brothers, […], OCLC 14453920; republished as The House by the Church-yard: A Novel [...] Three Volumes in One, New York, N.Y.: Carleton, publisher, […] ; London: Tinsley & Co., 1866, OCLC 248527881, page 115:
- The clerk had, I'm afraid, a shrew of a wife, shrill, vehement, and fluent.
- To make a shrill noise.
- 1579, Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], “Nouember. Aegloga Vndecima.”, in The Shepheardes Calender: […], London: Printed by Hugh Singleton, […], OCLC 606515406; republished as The Shepheardes Calender, […], imprinted at London: By Iohn Wolfe for Iohn Harrison the yonger, […], 1586, OCLC 837880809, folio 45, recto:
- And all wee dwell in deadly night, / O heauie herſe. / Breake we our pipes, that ſhrild as lowde as Larke, / O carefull verſe.
- c. 1602, William Shakespeare, The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. […] (First Quarto), London: Imprinted by G[eorge] Eld for R[ichard] Bonian and H[enry] Walley, […], published 1609, OCLC 951696502, [Act V, scene iii]:
- Harke how Troy roares, how Hecuba cries out, / How poore Andromache ſhrils her dolours foorth, / Behold deſtruction, frenzie, and amazement, / Like witleſſe antiques one another meete, / And all crie Hector, Hectors dead, O Hector.
- 1766 March, [Oliver Goldsmith], “A Ballad”, in The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale. Supposed to be Written by Himself, volume II, Salisbury, Wiltshire: Printed by B. Collins, for F[rancis] Newbery, […], OCLC 938500648, page 57:
- The labourers of the day were all retired to reſt; the lights were out in every cottage; no ſounds were heard but of the ſhrilling cock, and the deep-mouthed watch-dog, at hollow diſtance.
- 1791, Homer; W[illiam] Cowper, transl., “[The Iliad.] Book XVII.”, in The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, Translated into Blank Verse, [...] In Two Volumes, volume I, London: Printed for J. Johnson, […], OCLC 779243096, lines 913–918, page 481:
- They, as a cloud of ſtarlings or of daws / Fly ſcreaming ſhrill, warn'd timely of the kite / Or hawk, devourers of the ſmaller kinds, / So they ſhrill—clamouring toward the fleet, / Haſted before Æneas and the might / Of Hector, nor the battle heeded more.
- 1842, Alfred Tennyson, “Morte d’Arthur”, in Poems. [...] In Two Volumes, volume II, London: Edward Moxon, […], OCLC 1008064829, page 13:
- [F]rom them rose / A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars, / And, as it were one voice, an agony / Of lamentation, like a wind, that shrills / All night in a waste land, where no one comes, / Or hath come, since the making of the world.
- 2010, Ray Jones, “The Night Before”, in The Suits: An Animated Way to Look at Family Life, Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, →ISBN, page 3:
- As she stumbles over scattered clothes, randomly kicked-off shoes, newspapers, and video games, she finally reaches the telephone, as it shrills out its cries to be picked up.
- 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:
shrill (plural shrills)
- A shrill sound.
- 2018, Jaco Bakker; Johannes A. M. Langermans, “Ultrasonic Components of Vocalizations in Marmosets”, in Stefan M. Brudzynski, editor, Handbook of Ultrasonic Vocalization: A Window into the Emotional Brain (Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience), London; San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, →ISBN, part L (Ultrasonic Vocalization in Other Vertebrate Taxa), page 539, column 2:
- Sonographic example of two consecutive loud shrills of a common marmoset, showing sound frequencies of harmonics reaching into the ultrasonic range.