\ ˈshril How to pronounce shrill (audio) , especially Southern ˈsril \
shrilled; shrilling; shrills

Definition of shrill

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to utter or emit an acute piercing sound



Definition of shrill (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : having or emitting a sharp high-pitched tone or sound : piercing
b : accompanied by sharp high-pitched sounds or cries shrill gaiety
2 : having a sharp or vivid effect on the senses shrill light
3 : strident, intemperate shrill anger shrill criticism



Definition of shrill (Entry 3 of 3)

: a shrill sound the shrill of the ship's whistle

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Other Words from shrill


shrill adverb
shrillness noun
shrilly \ ˈshril-​lē How to pronounce shrilly (audio) , especially Southern  ˈsril-​ \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for shrill

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of shrill in a Sentence

Verb the mud-splattered bystanders were shrilling with outrage at the inconsiderate motorist Adjective the shrill sound of a policeman's whistle
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Earth smells and the pungency of privet and balsam were still acute at this hour, unmingled; the shadows were as bold as in a child’s picture book; swifts and house martins tracked across the pale sky overhead, shrilling in thrilled anticipation. Tessa Hadley, The New Yorker, "The Bunty Club," 21 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective As the news coverage became ever more shrill, investigators got to work trying to trace the source of the bug. Geoff White, Wired, "The 20-Year Hunt for the Man Behind the Love Bug Virus," 12 Sep. 2020 They can be heard for hundreds of yards across the flat, paved lots, their shrill wail as much a part of the backdrop of a college football Saturday here as charcoal smoke and cornhole. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "What we've lost in Big Ten country, in a fall without football," 5 Sep. 2020 There were shrill attacks on Donald Trump, probably the easiest thing in the world to do — casting so many of the wrongs of coronavirus on him. Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, "The Democrats Can’t Come to the Rescue When They Dance with the Devil," 24 Aug. 2020 The message, which was transmitted throughout the nation’s most populous province, was accompanied by a shrill emergency broadcast noise. Rob Gillies, The Denver Post, "Canadian officials accidentally push nuke alert to millions," 12 Jan. 2020 The shrill buzzing is a warm-weather sound, heard during daylight and intensifying with heat. Jim Gilbert, Star Tribune, "That buzz of summer — the cicada — is more often heard than seen," 30 July 2020 The message, which was transmitted throughout the nation’s most populous province, was accompanied by a shrill emergency broadcast noise. Rob Gillies, The Denver Post, "Canadian officials accidentally push nuke alert to millions," 12 Jan. 2020 Both campaigns are firing off mailers and airing television ads that cranked up the volume of the race to something more like the shrill fury of a swing Congressional district. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Disgraced ex-lawmaker David Stringer seeks 2nd chance from Yavapai County voters in primary," 2 Aug. 2020 The dominant note is the shrill voice of the superpatriot. Antonia Lloyd-jones, Harpers Magazine, "Archive: 2020," 11 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Shoppers casually meandered from store to store, and the shrill shouts of children could be heard echoing through the concourses of the Mall of America. Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune, "Mall of America tries to return to normalcy as owners continue to struggle," 15 Aug. 2020 The dolphins were introduced to something unusual—either a scuba diver or a shrill noisemaker—and Díaz López found that each had a consistent reaction over time. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Wild Dolphins Seem to Have a Range of Personalities," 15 Apr. 2020 While Stephanie elicits much sympathy, Rena bounces from the empathetic, caring mother to a shrill, out-of-control woman who picks fights with anyone trying to help her. Oline H. Cogdill,, "Review: ‘The Perfect Fraud’ a debut from an author to watch," 28 Oct. 2019 This is a shrill, tetchy, claustrophobic rock album sodden with record-biz pouting and only the dullest shades of pre-apocalyptic ennui. Chris Richards, Washington Post, "In your ear buds, Sturgill Simpson’s new album is a drag. In person, it’s a triumph.," 8 Oct. 2019 With the shrill of whistles breaking either the 8 a.m. or the 4 p.m. quiet on the various campuses, the start time for the respective teams, workouts have now taken on major urgency. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Fall is in the air as Pasadena ISD’s football camps get to work in an urgent way," 7 Aug. 2019 The morning soundtrack is a shrill buzz of electric saws, and at dusk, the amplified broadcast of the town council meeting. Natalie Keyssar, National Geographic, "How this quiet region in Guatemala became the epicenter of migration," 26 July 2019 With taps running dry, voices are getting shrill and the government, as a band-aid measure, has set aside ten million dollars for a 50-wagon train to ferry 10 million liters (about 3 million gallons) of water every day from the Cauvery to Chennai. National Geographic, "India’s water crisis could be helped by better building, planning," 15 July 2019 The shrills first arose when the record-signing refused teammate Edinson Cavani the opportunity to make history by not allowing him to take a penalty against Olympique Lyon., "Concerns About Neymar's Long Term PSG Future as Brazilian Finds Appeasing Parisians Challenging," 24 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shrill.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shrill


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1589, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for shrill


Middle English; probably akin to Old English scrallettan to resound loudly — more at skirl

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Time Traveler for shrill

Time Traveler

The first known use of shrill was in the 13th century

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Statistics for shrill

Cite this Entry

“Shrill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for shrill


How to pronounce shrill (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shrill

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to make a very loud, high-pitched sound
: to say (something) in a very loud, high-pitched voice



English Language Learners Definition of shrill (Entry 2 of 2)

: having a very loud, high-pitched sound
: loud and difficult to ignore but often unreasonable


\ ˈshril How to pronounce shrill (audio) \
shrilled; shrilling

Kids Definition of shrill

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to make a high-pitched usually piercing sound
2 : to say in a loud high-pitched voice “Will!” a voice shrilled, and Mary came flying up the drive.— Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising


shriller; shrillest

Kids Definition of shrill (Entry 2 of 2)

: having a high-pitched usually piercing sound a shrill whistle

Other Words from shrill

shrillness noun
shrilly \ ˈshril-​lē \ adverb She spoke shrilly.

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