1 of 2


: a spirited and usually cheerful song or tune
: a rhythmical swing, flow, or cadence
: a springy buoyant movement


2 of 2


lilted; lilting; lilts

transitive verb

: to sing or play in a lively cheerful manner

intransitive verb

: to sing or speak rhythmically and with fluctuating pitch
: to move in a lively springy manner

Examples of lilt in a Sentence

Noun There was a charming lilt to her voice. a tune with a lilt
Recent Examples on the Web
There was the range, the effortless jumping around octaves, and the subtle but discernible Gallic lilt, lending centuries of yearning to her bell-like clarity. Daphne Merkin, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2023 Sometimes they’re delivered in an Irish lilt, by Finnuala Connell (Judith Roddy), a longtime aide to Moses who, in the first act, is portrayed as cautiously curious, then captivated by Moses’s brilliance, but in the second act becomes disillusioned. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 31 Oct. 2022 There’s a sweet poignancy and lilt to the brief, wordless scenes of the young boys, portrayed by actors, and that sense of soul-deep connection reverberates, later in the series, in vérité sequences of Shorter and Hancock working out an arrangement or melody. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Aug. 2023 While most of the White actors affect English accents, the Indian players use their natural voices — and most have a distinct Carolina lilt. Gregory S. Schneider, Washington Post, 12 Aug. 2023 No surprise to hear an Irish lilt and discover an unabashed delight in metaphor—paragraphs without a simile or three are a rarity. Adam Begley, The Atlantic, 28 Feb. 2023 Hilda’s creation is as spectacular as any Nudie suit, perhaps even more beautiful for its handmade flourishes—the lilt of Hilda’s stitching, the black piping. Mike Masterson, Arkansas Online, 1 Aug. 2023 The sweeping rendition opens with Bennett's husky vocals before transitioning into Streisand's sweet lilt over strings. Ilana Kaplan, Peoplemag, 25 July 2023 The extended Graff family’s weekend breakfast involves bagels and lox, Aaron speaks to Esther in Yiddish when keeping a secret in front of Paul, and Paul’s parents speak with an instantly identifiable, emphatic lilt that’s built on the inflections of their own parents’ Yiddish. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 1 Nov. 2022
And in the score, Joplin pushed himself past ragtime into music that lilts, soars and swings with tenderness and vivacity, somewhat in the grand operetta style of Gilbert and Sullivan (if without the patter). Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 27 July 2023 There are poems set to lilting strains that turn into themes, and because the movie’s composer is mood master Gabriel Yared, the melodies linger nicely without feeling overplayed. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2023 After a few more days, the ballroom would begin to feel a bit lighter as private classes started back up and a stream of melodies lilted in the background. Corina Knoll Ben Laffin Mark Abramson, New York Times, 15 Feb. 2023 Elegant and complex with a unique Cabernet Franc lilt that provide the mysterious Angel in the Bottle of Croix de Labrie. Tom Mullen, Forbes, 22 May 2022 And so many of his ideas are inspired, like adding the forlorn country lilt of an accordionist (Veli Kujala) to the scene in which Hamlet corrals a traveling troupe of actors to put on an evocation of his father’s murder. New York Times, 15 May 2022 With her band members backing her up, Ballerini shows her voice to be well-suited for the song, never exactly imitating the rock icon’s inflections but instead adding a bit of her own East Tennessee lilt to the mix. Jon Freeman, Rolling Stone, 2 July 2021 The strings lilt and wail until Zauner begins shredding, like the notes can’t come out of her fast enough. Justin Curto, Vulture, 4 June 2021 Jones speaks in a deep baritone, her Robeson County lilt adding bounce and verve to the words. Isabel Spiegel, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Oct. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lilt.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English lulten to sound an alarm

First Known Use


circa 1680, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1722, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of lilt was circa 1680

Dictionary Entries Near lilt

Cite this Entry

“Lilt.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to sing or play in a lively cheerful manner


2 of 2 noun
: a lively and cheerful sound or expression
a tune with a lilt
a lilt in her voice

More from Merriam-Webster on lilt

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