1 of 3


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

intransitive verb

: to utter or emit an acute piercing sound


2 of 3


: having or emitting a sharp high-pitched tone or sound : piercing
: accompanied by sharp high-pitched sounds or cries
shrill gaiety
: having a sharp or vivid effect on the senses
shrill light
: strident, intemperate
shrill anger
shrill criticism
shrill adverb
shrillness noun
ˈshril-lē How to pronounce shrill (audio)
 especially Southern  ˈsril-


3 of 3


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

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
This device is very loud and shrill when operating. Kat De Naoum, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Oct. 2022 The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s increasingly shrill brand of Hindu nationalism has inflamed religious animosity within the country. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, 9 June 2022 Each of the four movements Thursday traced a giant decrescendo, coming on strong with cacophonous, often shrill music and slowly ebbing away in a dazzling variety of textures and colors, all of them sparse and serene. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, 7 Jan. 2022 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, 21 Oct. 2019
As Sheridan tried to explain soccer fans’ unique affinity for the incongruous celebration, her words were drowned out by a ruckus outside the interview room, as only the shrill voices of little girls can. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Sep. 2023 The hens of many dabbling species make shrill quacks, while drakes make softer peeps and whistles. Will Brantley, Field & Stream, 8 Nov. 2023 At times, Sassoon’s voice turned argumentative, ringing with a shrill impatience. Tracy Wang, Rolling Stone, 30 Oct. 2023 Meanwhile alterna-Zoey, a shrill brat on vacation with her own parents in Bermuda, struggles in vain to contact trophy boyfriend Zach. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 18 Oct. 2023 The shrill sounds of the sperm whale are downright dangerous. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 17 Oct. 2023 But get up into the power band, and you’re not only met with a delightful exhaust note but a wonderfully shrill accompaniment of induction sound, too. Tim Stevens, Robb Report, 13 Oct. 2023 Some joked that Johnny Rotten sang as if someone was standing on his foot, but, actually, Lydon originated a singular protest voice that was shrill, temperamental yet inspiring. Armond White, National Review, 23 Aug. 2023 But the shrill warnings that left Patil so alarmed had actually helped carry the day for the BJP along the coast. Gerry Shih, Washington Post, 27 Sep. 2023
The cheering was so loud that even ear plugs wouldn’t have masked the shrill. Alli Rosenbloom, CNN, 11 Aug. 2023 There has never been—knock on all wood—a bite, not even when that territorial shih tzu on Fawn Street broke away from its owner and chased us off the block with a shrill, honestly quite aggressive, warning. Hazlitt, 20 Dec. 2022 Harris guest-starred on Seinfeld for 27 episodes as the shrill Estelle Costanza, opposite Jerry Stiller as George’s father, Frank Costanza. Vulture, 3 Apr. 2022 The shrill, yet welcome, sound of children’s laughter fills the air. Essence, 23 Nov. 2022 The sudden shrill is as jarring as the sound of breaking glass and does equal damage to the video call’s momentum. Stacey Hanke, Forbes, 28 Oct. 2021 Sonically, Levi’s first film is equal parts shrill and echoey. Samantha Hissong, Rolling Stone, 7 July 2021 The syrup, meanwhile, made the Sauvignon’s acidity shrill and flattened the Riesling’s fruit. Lettie Teague, WSJ, 23 June 2021 Elsewhere, another citizen glanced over her shoulder, hastily pulled herself into a dress, and winced at a whistle blown by one of the three advancing officers, the shrill of it a rip of violence through the mild day. Hermione Hoby, Harper's Magazine, 22 June 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shrill.' 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; probably akin to Old English scrallettan to resound loudly — more at skirl

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


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


1589, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near shrill

Cite this Entry

“Shrill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 verb
: to make a high sharp piercing sound : scream


2 of 3 adjective
: having a sharp high sound
a shrill whistle
shrill adverb
shrillness noun
shrilly adverb


3 of 3 noun
: a shrill sound

More from Merriam-Webster on shrill

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