\ 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 shrill (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 There was his black whistle, hanging around his neck on a lanyard — sharp, shrill and authoritative. Julie Bosman,, "A ripple effect of loss: US COVID deaths approach 500,000," 21 Feb. 2021 There was his black whistle, hanging around his neck on a lanyard — sharp, shrill and authoritative. New York Times, "A Ripple Effect of Loss: U.S. Covid Deaths Approach 500,000," 21 Feb. 2021 Greenberg, more into shrill shrieks than polite chitchat, continues his coloratura expressions of outrage. Leah Garchik,, "A stranger’s concern on a late-night walk in San Francisco is balm for a scare," 15 Jan. 2021 Hearing them without describing them as shrill or hysterical has proved to be a separate, but equally daunting, task. Washington Post, "The sound of a shifting power structure," 13 Jan. 2021 In Montagne des Français, the exclusive habitat of the northern sportive lemur—a seven-inch tall, grayish-brown animal known for its shrill screams—patrols have identified areas newly denuded for charcoal production. Dina Fine Maron, Animals, "Madagascar’s endangered lemurs are being killed during pandemic lockdowns," 14 Dec. 2020 As voices of intolerance once again grow more shrill and confident, such tangible efforts are needed just as much as Dahl’s delightfully wicked stories. Washington Post, "Roald Dahl was anti-Semitic. Do we need his family’s apology now?," 7 Dec. 2020 The loudest voices in this country are shrill and partisan but not representative of the moderate center. Phil Boas And Greg Burton, The Arizona Republic, "You are the key to safeguarding the 2020 election," 29 Oct. 2020 Evans gives Claire an intricate back story — a mother who dies from cancer, involvement in a neighbor’s fatal car crash, a shrill stepmother named Puppy — and the story struggles, at times, to contain its various conflicts and tragedies. Danielle Evans, Star Tribune, "Review: 'The Office of Historical Corrections,' by Danielle Evans," 6 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Waugh maintains barely restrained chaos throughout, which often tends toward the shrill. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Greenland’ delivers a Giant Comet 2020, extinction-level event," 16 Dec. 2020 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

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Shrill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for shrill



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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