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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
sibilant whispers
▪ Suddenly Hugo heard a harsh sibilant inhalation of breath.
▪ There would have been no sound down there but the sibilant trickle of water.
▪ They spoke among themselves in whispers, which fell off into sibilant monosyllables, and then into nothing at all.
▪ Wakelate applied a sizzle stick to the sibilant huffing of the gas.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Sibilant \Sib"i*lant\, a. [L. sibilans, -antis, p. pr. of sibilare to hiss: cf. F. sibilant.] Making a hissing sound; uttered with a hissing sound; hissing; as, s, z, sh, and zh, are sibilant elementary sounds. -- n. A sibiliant letter.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1660s, from Latin sibilantem (nominative sibilans), present participle of sibilare "to hiss, whistle," possibly of imitative origin (compare Greek sizein "to hiss," Lettish sikt "to hiss," Old Church Slavonic svistati "to hiss, whistle"). Related: Sibilance; sibilation (1620s).


"speech sound having a hissing effect," 1772, from sibilant (adj.).


a. Characterized by a hissing sound such as the "s" or "sh" in ''sash'' or ''surge''. n. (context phonetics English) A hissing sound such as the 's' or 'sh' in 'sash' or 'surge'.


adj. of speech sounds produced by forcing air through a constricted passage (as `f', `s', `z', or `th' in both `thin' and `then') [syn: fricative, spirant]


n. a consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s or sh) [syn: sibilant consonant]


Sibilance is a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the sharp edge of the teeth, which are held close together; a consonant that uses sibilance may be called a sibilant, or a strident. Examples of sibilants are the consonants at the beginning of the English words sip, zip, ship, chip, and jump, and the second consonant in vision. The symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet used to denote the sibilant sounds in these words are, respectively, . More specifically, the sounds , as in chip and jump, are affricates, whereas the rest are fricatives. Sibilants have a characteristically intense sound, which accounts for their non-linguistic use in getting one's attention (e.g. calling someone using "psst!" or quieting someone using "shhhh!").

In the hissing sibilants and , the back of the tongue forms a narrow channel (is grooved) to focus the stream of air more intensely, resulting in a high pitch. With the hushing sibilants (occasionally termed shibilants), such as English , , , and , the tongue is flatter, and the resulting pitch lower.

Because all sibilants are also stridents, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the terms do not mean the same thing. The English stridents are . The English sibilants are a more high pitched subset of the stridents. The English sibilants are . and are stridents, but not sibilants, because they are lower in pitch.

"Stridency" refers to the perceptual intensity of the sound of a sibilant consonant, or obstacle fricatives/affricates, which refers to the critical role of the teeth in producing the sound as an obstacle to the airstream. Non-sibilant fricatives and affricates produce their characteristic sound directly with the tongue or lips etc. and the place of contact in the mouth, without secondary involvement of the teeth.

The characteristic intensity of sibilants means that small variations in tongue shape and position are perceivable, with the result that there are a large number of sibilant types that contrast in various languages.

Usage examples of "sibilant".

Sol Draconi Septem and hear the sibilant hissings and see the deadly actions of Scylla, Gyges, Briareus, and Nemes on Vitus-Gray-Balianus B.

Kisst-Haa bowed to her, boomed briefly in his own sibilant tongue, bowed to Van Duyn and set off again on his nameless errand.

The wheezing, eerily sibilant emissions of the flimmers did much to inspire his efforts.

The Shadow was speaking to Goofer in sibilant tones that the captured crook could not ignore.

The gasp of Pocky Bender was muffled by a burst of sibilant laughter from The Shadow.

A sibilant snarl reverberated through the room and he whirled full circle.

Lights shone in the windows, music was in the air, and as I drew nearer my ear detected the sibilant shuffling of the feet of butlers, footmen, chauffeurs, parlourmaids, housemaids, tweenies and, I have no doubt, cooks, who were busily treading the measure.

Behind the bars, one of the gnarly miscreations hissed at me, and the other two took it up at once and with enthusiasms low, sibilant, threatening sound.

Everyone seemed to have heard that Ramillies was missing again, and the long sibilant name sounded from all sides.

Sibilant weavers from the lakes of Banaree, where in springtime it was always milky morning, preferred calm and sparsity and empty spaces.

The softly spoken Absarokee woke Blaze, but she lay drowsily quiescent, letting the sibilant cadence wash over her.

Here was a scrap of Latin or a Cymric phrase, but mostly it was merely a sibilant hissing which belonged to no language of our ken.

The hisser had hissed his name, a sibilant whisper that made the name Dortmunder sound as though it were full of esses.

Everyone seemed to have heard that Ramillies was missing again, and the long sibilant name sounded from all sides.

He could see rets standing all about him, maybe a dozen or so, heavy reptilian bodies cloaked against the dawn light, heads bent between heavy shoulders, voices low and sibilant as they conversed among themselves.