\ 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 By becoming shrill, dogmatic, and moralistic practitioners of a politically correct religion of humanity, the Church follows the path of perdition. Daniel J. Mahoney, National Review, "Pope Francis, Wayward Shepherd," 6 Feb. 2020 But every one of the leading Democratic candidates is flawed in some way or another: Joe Biden can be dismissed as too old-fashioned, Bernie Sanders as too shrill, and Pete Buttigieg as too green. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Don’t Count Elizabeth Warren Out," 14 Jan. 2020 First there is a modest beeping from the cancer tree, which grows louder if no nurse comes, finally rising to a shrill alarm that sends a current of articulate irritation around the pod. Christian Wiman, Harper's magazine, "The Cancer Chair," 20 Jan. 2020 The shrill, piercing shriek that our phones give out when a flash flood warning is issued is unmistakable. Matthew Cappucci,, "Those shrieking flash flood alerts on your phone? Expect fewer of them.," 10 Jan. 2020 Ahead of us, tiny blue duiker antelope crashed through the undergrowth; up in the canopy, weaver birds announced our arrival with shrill cries and samango monkeys followed our progress with curious, darting eyes. Peter Browne, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Slow Safari Along Zimbabwe’s Back Roads," 20 Dec. 2019 On the one hand, shrill; on the other, desperate for approval. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The ‘Likeability’ Question, In Disguise," 13 Nov. 2019 Young children may hear the shrill sound and panic, hiding under their beds or in a closet — the worst-possible thing to do in the event of a fire. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "5 Michigan kids died in house fires this week. Here's how to ensure it doesn't happen again," 3 Nov. 2019 The misogynistic stereotype is that women’s very voices are grating and shrill, especially when raised in anything but a cheerleader-bright yell. Washington Post, "Women, once relegated to supporting roles, are becoming the protagonists of their own stories," 23 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for shrill

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Shrill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 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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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

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