\ 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 Giuliani’s valiant efforts to rally a city staggered by 9/11 helped New Yorkers forget that sort of shrill bullying. Tom Robbins, Time, "Rudy Giuliani Once Fought Corruption, Now He Is Embroiled in It," 31 Oct. 2019 This shrill, empty work—which Chaguan watched on October 20th at a gala performance in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province—says more about the state of public art in today’s China. The Economist, "Some thank Zhou Enlai for saving China from Mao’s excesses," 24 Oct. 2019 The film is a grinding experience driven by a pulsing electronic score and a sweaty, energized, perfectly shrill performance from Sandler that might be a career best. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Jojo Rabbit, Joker, and 5 More Movies to Look For This Fall," 16 Sep. 2019 Others are one-note — shrill, ineffectual, tempting, annoying. Aisha Harris, New York Times, "Sharon Tate Is a Woman in a Tarantino Movie. It’s Complicated.," 7 Aug. 2019 Half of the Democratic 20-person primary field in the debates appeared unhappy, shrill, and self-righteous, and determined that no candidate should out-left any other. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Democrats’ Debate Cowardice, Hypocrisy, and Nuttiness," 6 Aug. 2019 Fanfiction is still dismissed as a serious literary genre, lampooned as something only shrill teen girls write — even though many of those girls grow up to become Hugo-winning authors themselves (who still write fanfiction). Aja Romano, Vox, "4.7 million fanfics are now Hugo winners, thanks to AO3 and the transformative culture that built it.," 19 Aug. 2019 One set of eggs was placed in a chamber that periodically played the shrill warning calls of adult gulls. Jennifer Leman, Scientific American, "Bird Embryos Vibrate to Warn One Another of Danger before They Hatch," 22 July 2019 Five, academia became politicized as a shrill agent of cultural transformation rather than focusing on education — while charging more for less learning. Victor Davis Hanson, The Mercury News, "Hanson: Why are Western middle classes revolting against the elites?," 13 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Inside a lobby of a downtown Tuscaloosa hotel, the shrill of a phone ring echoes. Rainer Sabin,, "How the coach who followed Bear Bryant still has his fingerprints on Alabama," 29 Aug. 2017 Inside are piles of shrill and whining piccolo petes, neon flame-spouting blazing rebels and mounds of sparklers. Alex Harris, miamiherald, "Under the white tents, fireworks salespeople have big dreams for the money they make," 3 July 2017

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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Statistics for shrill

Last Updated

15 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for shrill

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on shrill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shrill

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shrill

Spanish Central: Translation of shrill

Nglish: Translation of shrill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shrill for Arabic Speakers

Comments on shrill

What made you want to look up shrill? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to engage in dissolute behavior

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