\ 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

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 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Sheridan died less than two weeks after Estelle Harris, who played the shrill mother of George Costanza (Jason Alexander). Christian Holub,, 15 Apr. 2022 Time Out New York asked him whether his shrill-voiced shtick had gotten louder over time. NBC News, 12 Apr. 2022 Of course, don't expect partisans on the political fringes, who dominate so much of today's political debate with their enablers in a media echo chamber that amplifies the most shrill voices, to appreciate Sen. Collins' statesmanship. Charlie Dent, CNN, 3 Apr. 2022 Gottfried was known for his iconic shrill voice and beloved for his crude comedic style. Zack Sharf, Variety, 12 Apr. 2022 Despite that voice, which could be annoying or shrill, Harris could bring a distinct warmth and charm to her roles. Maureen Lee Lenker, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Apr. 2022 Other European countries are taking views along the spectrum, including some who see a Russian attack as likely but still consider recent warnings as shrill and counterproductive. Daniel Michaels, WSJ, 28 Jan. 2022 As portrayed by Eden Perkins, the live-action Ed was…extremely loud and shrill, as if the anime character had been cut-and-pasted into three dimensions with no modulation whatsoever. Ew Staff,, 16 Dec. 2021 For every woman who has ever been told that her voice is grating or shrill or hysterical, Holmes offered a cynical road map to vocal appeasement. Washington Post, 8 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 And more than 30 years ago, the island’s air vibrated with the deafening shrill of thousands of chirping cicadas. Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, 27 May 2021 In lesser hands, Vicedo’s book could have grown shrill with outrage. Washington Post, 30 Apr. 2021 Waugh maintains barely restrained chaos throughout, which often tends toward the shrill. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, 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, 15 Aug. 2020 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near shrill

shrike tit



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Statistics for shrill

Last Updated

20 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shrill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for shrill


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on shrill

Nglish: Translation of shrill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shrill for Arabic Speakers


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