sibilants; sibilantly

Something that’s sibilant has a hissing sound, like when the librarian says, “Shhhhhhhh!”

Sibilant entered English in the 17th century from the Latin word sibilant-, meaning “hissing.” When you listen to a foreign language that’s full of hissy “es” or “sh” or “zzz” sounds, those sounds are called sibilants. The sound is made by forcing air out toward your teeth. Try it: say “sash.” That’s a sibilant. As an adjective, use sibilant to describe something characterized by that hissing sound. Your sibilant whisper probably will be heard by the librarian.

Definitions of sibilant
  1. adjective
    of speech sounds produced by forcing air through a constricted passage (as `f', `s', `z', or `th' in both `thin' and `then')
    synonyms: continuant, fricative, spirant, strident
    (of speech sounds); produced with the back of the tongue raised toward the hard palate; characterized by a hissing or hushing sound (as `s' and `sh')
  2. noun
    a consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s or sh)
    synonyms: sibilant consonant
    see moresee less
    type of:
    fricative, fricative consonant, spirant
    a continuant consonant produced by breath moving against a narrowing of the vocal tract
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