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Does the high-pitched sound of nails scratching a chalkboard have a name?

I thought of "squeaking" or "screeching" but I don't think either of them correctly describes it.

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Sheer torture! Just kidding, I have no idea what it's called. Screeching is about the best I could come up with but I'm not totally happy with it either. –  Lynn Dec 17 '11 at 22:42
Screeching isn't a name, but rather a description of the sound. –  Oldcat Oct 22 '14 at 19:23

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Writers tend to use the phrase nails on a chalkboard to describe the sound:

“The music of veteran pop singer Cliff Richard apparently is like nails on a chalkboard to hooligans.” [CNN]

Apparently, nobody has been able to capture the sound's singular power to excruciate in an onomatopoeia.

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If the word were onomatopoeic, it would hardly be used, would it? –  JeffSahol Dec 18 '11 at 4:11
@JeffSahol I'd have a word to describe my neighbor's voice... –  Gnawme Dec 18 '11 at 4:37
Hey what would an onomatopoeic word for silence sound like? –  JeffSahol Dec 18 '11 at 18:03
I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lovely poetic term like tintinnabulation or susurrus. –  Gnawme Dec 18 '11 at 21:18
I've always heard "fingernails on a blackboard". –  Hot Licks Feb 25 at 20:29

I would call it chalkboard screech.

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Since there really isn't just one word that captures the true essence of the sound, how about slapping an adjective on the front? E.g. shrill screech.

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I would suggest the onomatopoeia "scree".

The sound this describes is common in many videogames and movies with pterosaur-like animals; it always reminded me (unpleasantly) of nails on a chalkboard.

Her nails on the chalkboard made a shrill "SCREEEEEE" that sent shivers down my spine.

A somewhat-related video for reference: (The sound I'm describing can be heard starting at 0:10).

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I like the sound of 'screak', because of that 'k'. The Oxford English Dictionary's examples don't mention blackboards, but do mention violins.

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Chill-sending screech.

I would say "chill-sending screech" because of the way nails on a chalkboard send chills down one's back.

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Maybe some kind of grating screech? Or try and describe the effects of the sound- perhaps by comparing it to the scraping of fingernails down the insides of your ears???

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Chill-sending screech.

I would describe the sound nails make running against a chalkboard as a "chill-sending screech" because, as we all know, the sound sends chills down your back.

Ex: The teacher made a chill-sending noise when she slid her nails against the chalkboard.

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protected by tchrist Feb 25 at 22:46

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