I described someones voice as being shrill but I think that relates to the voice being particularly high pitched.

If when someone speaks and it invokes an uneasy feeling in others, how would you describe it? The uneasy feeling isn't necessarily from what they are saying but rather the tone, pitch, repetitiveness, etc.

I could generalize and say they are annoying or irritating but that isn't necessarily the case. Is there a word that is more accurate for this?

So if someone talking can be uncomfortable to listen to how would you describe their voice?

Example use could be:

  • Blimey, your voice is quite word here
  • Woah, be quiet for a second, when you speak you're quite word here
  • You could use the word coarse here.
    – Rayner
    Apr 27, 2016 at 16:17
  • You examples are very low register. All the suggestions are very high register. So.....low register: Blimey, your voice is getting on my nerves.
    – Lambie
    Apr 27, 2016 at 16:47
  • This question will have a thousand answers. :) Can you narrow down your question?
    – NVZ
    Apr 27, 2016 at 19:53
  • I thought (and hoped) we were going in a different direction with "way of talking". You're just talking about the sound of their voice? Title: "How would you describe someone's voice that's uncomfortable to listen to?"
    – Mazura
    Apr 28, 2016 at 1:33
  • Is this in a social context or a work of fiction? If the latter, you could describe the physical response of the person's hearers. (Standard show vs. tell.) Apr 28, 2016 at 15:07

6 Answers 6


Consider grating

Sounding harsh and unpleasant: her high, grating voice

Also strident

Loud and harsh; grating: his voice had become increasingly sharp, almost strident

Oxford Dictionaries Online

And if you want a simile, you could say

His voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

  • 2
    grating is a good one
    – Dave Haigh
    Apr 28, 2016 at 7:56

"Distressing": causing anxiety, sorrow or pain; upsetting.

"Unsettling": causing one to feel anxious or uneasy; disturbing.

"Agitating": make (someone) troubled or nervous.

  • 7
    "Unsettling" is a good one.
    – Rayner
    Apr 27, 2016 at 16:21

I like unnerving.

making one feel worried or uncomfortable

Example (Telstra's phone alarm service put to sleep):

You rang the number, booked a time, then were rudely awoken from your blissful slumber by that lady with the annoying and slightly unnerving voice that sounded like a computer.


I would use the term "creepy", which seems to fit your description very well.

Adjective creepy ‎(comparative creepier, superlative creepiest)

Producing an uneasy fearful sensation, as of things crawling over one's skin. Strangely repulsive.

  • creepy is a good shout, but not quite what I was after. it's a less creepy/nervous feeling, more annoyed or irritated feeling.
    – Dave Haigh
    Apr 28, 2016 at 7:55
  • that's the one - for me, at least Apr 28, 2016 at 9:01
  • If that's the case, I'd probably go with your original answer, shrill, or most of the examples suggested by @bib. Of his suggestions I think I like strident the best.
    – delliottg
    Apr 28, 2016 at 15:02


: arousing displeasure, impatience, or anger.



I also quite like grating and agitating (and voted on them). You could also go with the more blunt anxiety-inducing. Another question to consider is, what sort of uncomfortable feeling does the speaker provoke? Is it a general snakes-in-the-gut creepiness, or social embarrassment for their lack of awareness, or something else? Is it provoked by the words they use, or the timbre of their voice? Thinking about those things may help you land on the right term. Best of luck!

  • Good questions. Not creepy. Lack of awareness maybe. Its very hard to explain the feeling. They might simply be sooo monotone that it invokes the feeling. Or they might be high pitched and annoying and it invokes the same feeling. Grating, aggitating, are closest so far.
    – Dave Haigh
    Apr 28, 2016 at 15:50
  • I saw Don Branson's bit above about show vs. tell, and that could be a great tool depending on your context: "Blimey, your voice gives me the shivers!" or "Blimey, your voice is ice on my bones"-- etc.,-- you could use the speaker's description of their own reaction to illustrate the interlocutor's voice. Hope that helps!
    – AMontoya
    Apr 28, 2016 at 16:20
  • I didnt understand that comment. Meant to respond to it
    – Dave Haigh
    Apr 28, 2016 at 16:21
  • Mostly used in fiction writing, you show the reader the story rather than telling with a litany of straight statements. Tell: "Sam was unnerved by the news." vs. Show: "Sam's grip on the letter tightened, and he stumbled into a chair as his knees failed him." That kind of stuff.
    – AMontoya
    Apr 28, 2016 at 16:24

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