\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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, 21 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Owen’s voice is a bit shrill, a bit loud, coming from a body a bit too small. Derek B. Miller, WSJ, 15 Oct. 2021 The discourse there often descends into the cynical and shrill, but Sydow’s remembrance struck a chord. Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2021 The shrill cry of the Batá drum and the low moans of the dùndún drum, from the Yoruba; the metallic clatter of the ogene bell and the silvery melody of the opi flute, from the Igbo. Wired, 1 Sep. 2021 Climate advocates have done themselves and the planet a great disservice by wrapping climate policy in increasingly shrill, apocalyptic, partisan, and unscientific rhetoric. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 4 Sep. 2021 Thomas Adès, a part-time Los Angeles resident, led a host of singers and L.A. Phil players in a shrill, chaotic, relentless, and altogether wonderful performance. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021 If his shrill voice doesn’t win you over, his little vest will. Luke Winkie, Vulture, 3 Aug. 2021 But impeachment, political candidates, elections, and all the shrill warnings and gnashing of teeth from the far left and far right don’t even register., 31 Jan. 2020 Adams, though, is stuck with a protagonist so shrill and chaotic and self-absorbed — the classic unreliable narrator, doubled and dunked in Cabernet — that there's not much left to sympathize with. Leah Greenblatt,, 14 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 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, 15 Apr. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About shrill

Time Traveler for shrill

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near shrill

shrike tit



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for shrill

Cite this Entry

“Shrill.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on shrill

Nglish: Translation of shrill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shrill for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!