shrill [shril] ExamplesWord Origin See more synonyms for shrill on adjective, shrill·er, shrill·est.

  1. high-pitched and piercing in sound quality: a shrill cry.
  2. producing such a sound.
  3. full of or characterized by such a sound: shrill music.
  4. betraying some strong emotion or attitude in an exaggerated amount, as antagonism or defensiveness.
  5. marked by great intensity; keen: the shrill, incandescent light of the exploding bomb.

verb (used with or without object)

  1. to cry shrilly.


  1. a shrill sound.


  1. in a shrill manner; shrilly.

Origin of shrill 1300–50; Middle English shrille (adj., v.); akin to Old English scrallettan to sound loudly; cognate with German schrill (adj.), schrillen (v.); compare Old Norse skrīll rabbleRelated formsshrill·ness, nounshril·ly, adverbout·shrill, verb (used with object)un·shrill, adjective Related Words for shrill earsplitting, piercing, raucous, deafening, sharp, discordant, strident, noisy, treble, penetrating, blaring, piping, thin, clanging, screeching, acute, blatant, cacophonous, high, metallic Examples from the Web for shrill Contemporary Examples of shrill

  • Behind a chorus of shrill insects, the pops of gunfire can sometimes be heard in the distance.

    A Belgian Prince, Gorillas, Guerrillas & the Future of the Congo

    Nina Strochlic

    November 6, 2014

  • “When I was doing press for Whitney, critics were commenting on my appearance, saying I was shrill, saying I was needy,” she says.

    Why Whitney Cummings’ Dick Jokes Are Important

    Kevin Fallon

    June 25, 2014

  • We’re so used to seeing in sitcoms the same relationship: the naggy, shrill wife who’s constantly bickering with her husband.

    ‘Surviving Jack’ Star Rachael Harris Is No Longer ‘The Bitch’

    Kevin Fallon

    March 27, 2014

  • The noise in the stadium grew for every point he won, but the points he lost were greeted with shrill, desperate screams.

    How to Hide a Famine with Ping-Pong

    Nicholas Griffin

    January 9, 2014

  • Her voice was shrill with disbelief and choked with grief as she spoke to someone on her cell phone in Fujianese.

    Brooklyn Mother, Four Children Allegedly Slain by Jealous Cousin

    Michael Daly

    October 28, 2013

  • Historical Examples of shrill

  • There was a sharp, shrill cry from the boy, and Dozier whirled on him.

    Way of the Lawless

    Max Brand

  • But the new voice was stilled into nothingness by the shrill, reawakening falsetto.


    W. A. Fraser

  • So saying, he put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill whistle.

    The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

    Howard Pyle

  • Camille gave a shrill laugh, so funny did the idea appear to her.

    The Three Cities Trilogy, Complete

    Emile Zola

  • Wat’s voice was shrill in the land, yelling, exhorting, screaming.

    Slaves of Mercury

    Nat Schachner

  • British Dictionary definitions for shrill shrill adjective

    1. sharp and high-pitched in quality
    2. emitting a sharp high-pitched sound


    1. to utter (words, sounds, etc) in a shrill tone
    2. (tr) rare to cause to produce a shrill sound

    Derived Formsshrillness, nounshrilly, adverbWord Origin for shrill C14: probably from Old English scralletan; related to German schrill shrill, Dutch schrallen to shriek Word Origin and History for shrill adj.

    late 14c., schrylle “high-pitched, piercing” (of the voice), probably related to Old English scralletan “to sound loudly” and of imitative origin (cf. Low German schrell, German schrill “piercing, shrill”). Related: Shrillness; shrilly (adv.).


    “to sound shrilly,” c.1300, imitative (see shrill (adj.). Related: Shrilled; shrilling.

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