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From Middle English schrille, shrille, shirle, from an earlier schille, from Old English scill (sonorous sounding), with r by analogy to skrīke, skrīken, scrēmen, possibly to avoid confusion with non-Anglian forms of schelle (shell) where Old English scill (sonorous sounding) and scill (shell) existed.

Cognate with Icelandic skella (crash, bang, slam).



shrill (comparative shriller, superlative shrillest)

  1. High-pitched and piercing.
    The woods rang with shrill cries of the birds.
    • Shakespeare
      Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give / To sounds confused.
    • Byron
      Let winds be shrill, let waves roll high.
  2. Sharp or keen to the senses.
  3. Having a shrill voice.
    • 1872, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charlotte's Inheritance (page 105)
      'Oh, don't she look white!' cried a shrill girl with a baby in her arms.

Coordinate termsEdit



shrill (third-person singular simple present shrills, present participle shrilling, simple past and past participle shrilled)

  1. To make a shrill noise.
    • 2017 November 10, Daniel Taylor, “Youthful England earn draw with Germany but Lingard rues late miss”, in The Guardian (London)[1]:
      Jesse Lingard, another substitute, was only eight yards out when Harry Maguire’s knock-down fell for him but it was a wild finish and Southgate still had his head in his hands when the final whistle shrilled.
    • Spenser
      Break we our pipes, that shrill'd loud as lark.
    • Goldsmith
      No sounds were heard but of the shrilling cock.
    • L. Wallace
      His voice shrilled with passion.



shrill (plural shrills)

  1. A shrill sound.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Edmund Spenser to this entry?)
    • 2015, Cliff Schexnayder, Builders of the Hoosac Tunnel
      The shrill of the whistle from the locomotive “Charlestown” announced the arrival of the first train into Fitchburg on 5 March 1845 []