Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, _____ing in my ears.

Which word can best fit the blank in the sentence? Ringing or echoing fit, but seem too lackluster and mediocre to me.


A word that refers to a repeating shrill sound being vibrated in someone's ears and alerting the senses because of its shrillness and the abruptness of its coming and ending.


The narrator is using a PC. The clicking of the mouse is the 'sound' in question. She is getting sleepy and the only thing that seems to keep her awake is the constant clicking sound. No, the sound isn't ear-piercingly loud and shrill. Nor is it very pleasant to the ears. What I seek to describe is the effect the sound produces, not the sound itself.


I'm looking for a word that's (preferably) short, simple and powerful. As I said earlier — what I seek to describe is the effect the sound produces, not the sound itself. If you choose a word that needs the sentence to be reworded a bit in order to fit, don't hesitate to share it. I won't mind, as long as the word's appropriate and the meaning isn't drastically changed.


10 Answers 10


Possible answers include

jarring - Incongruous in a striking or shocking way; clashing.



grating - Sounding harsh and unpleasant.


  • +1 Like them. Great! But the sentence needs some rewording for any of the options to fit. Jun 16, 2017 at 21:38
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    @SohaFarhinPine Thank you for the up vote. "Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, grating in my ears." I think that works as is. I also thought of echoing which works for the "... and went ..." part but not so much for the "... came ..." part. :-) Jun 16, 2017 at 21:45

Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, trilling in my ears.

From Oxford:


A quavering or vibratory sound, especially a rapid alternation of sung or played notes.

‘the caged bird launched into a piercing trill’

Also from Oxford:

‘But on the sunlit walls, suddenly trilling like car alarms, small brightly coloured birds were hung in cages outside shops.’

  • The word refers to the distinct kind of sound itself, not the effect the sound produces. But thanks anyway. Jun 16, 2017 at 18:02
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    Are you looking for a word that "refers to the distinct kind of sound itself" or a word describing "the effect the sound produces"? In your comment, "The word" is ambigious; it's not clear whether you're referring to the word you're looking for or the word that was suggested. In either case, I would say that if ringing fits, trilling would as well. Jun 16, 2017 at 18:29
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    Trilling doesn't have any unpleasant connotations. If anything I'd say it suggests happiness and beautiful bird song more so than a "shrill sound." Personally I think "grating" is the best choice, it's certainly the most common. Jun 17, 2017 at 19:26

Some sonic-effect terms for what you are seeking are:

  • resounding, which has a neutral or vaguely positive connotation;
  • tintinnabulating, but that's high-falutin' and may not be the right register;
  • clamoring, which emphasizes the insistence of the sound;
  • chiming, tolling, or pealing, all relating to the sound of bells;

I'd say shriek:

(of something inanimate) make a high-pitched screeching sound.

Be very obvious or strikingly discordant.

Hence, Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, shrieking in my ears.

Note that "click, click" doesn't really fit with your specification of being alarmingly shrill; "click" is usually much calmer and more neutral than that. If you're talking about a siren/alarm/klaxon, or even just loud natural noises (e.g. in the jungle), I'd go for shrieking or perhaps clamoring, which reminds me of bells but also has specific connotations of trying to get someone's attention.


My solution: dissonating.

Reason: The initial deduction for the requirements for a befitting word, were one of two of the following :

  • The nature of the sound : discomfort.
  • The effect of the sound : preventing the narrator from falling asleep.

Dissonance is a phenomena where very close but not equal frequencies cause a unique form 'trilling' ( a word mentioned in one of the answers ). But it isn't just any trilling. It is uniquely harsh. Dissonance is used in all kinds of music from orchestral to metal to express unrest.

I, thus believe :

Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, dissonating in my ears.

Fun fact : The word dissonance comes from the Latin dissonantia, meaning 'disagreement of sound'.


Perhaps buzzing would work?

Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, buzzing in my ears.

Per the Oxford Dictionaries:



  1. A low, continuous humming or murmuring sound, made by or similar to that made by an insect.
    ‘the buzz of the bees’
    ‘a buzz of conversation’

Edit: Based on the updated question and other comments, here are some more suggestions:



  1. [no object, usually with adverbial] (of a loud noise) be repeated several times as an echo.
    ‘her deep booming laugh reverberated around the room’

    1.1 (of a place) appear to vibrate because of a loud noise.
    ‘the hall reverberated with laughter’




  1. (of water) form or flow with a series of small waves on the surface.
    ‘the Mediterranean rippled and sparkled’
    ‘the rippling waters’

    1.1 [with object] Cause (the surface of water) to form small waves.
    ‘a cool wind rippled the surface of the estuary’

    1.2 [no object] Move in a way resembling a series of small waves.
    ‘fields of grain rippling in the wind’

    1.3 [no object, with adverbial of direction] (of a sound or feeling) spread through a person, group, or place.
    ‘applause rippled around the tables’




  1. Expand and contract with strong regular movements.
    ‘blood vessels throb and pulsate’

    1.1 (often as adjective pulsating) Produce a regular throbbing sensation or sound.
    ‘dance the night away in one of the pulsating discos’

    1.2 (usually as adjective pulsating) Be very exciting.
    ‘victory in a pulsating semi-final’



  1. [no object] Throb rhythmically; pulsate.
    ‘a knot of muscles at the side of his jaw pulsed’




  1. Make a continuous low humming sound.
    ‘in the far distance a machine droned’



[NO OBJECT] 1. Make a continuous rhythmic humming sound.
‘the boat's huge engines thrummed in his ears’

  • I've updated the question to add more context. Jun 16, 2017 at 18:34
  • The thing is, you have two very good suggestions while the others fit less well. Supplying a thesaurus-like list can backfire.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 17, 2017 at 6:53
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    @SohaFarhinPine - A sound droning on takes the definition of being tedious and monotonous.
    – Mazura
    Jun 17, 2017 at 7:55

I'd like to add that "shrill" here doesn't seem to match. Shrill tends to describe longer, higher-pitched noises. Looking at the other answers, it seems that there may not be a precisely appropriate word in English. Here's my revision!

Click, click. The rapid sound constantly came and went, each tap a soft stab at the senses.

  • 2
    I agree shrill is used for more longer sounds, but mouse clicks can be high-pitched and do have a distinct 'shrillness'. I like your revision more than the original, though. As much as I would like to accept your answer, it would be unfair because this is not really an answer. It's more like a comment actually. Jun 16, 2017 at 21:22

Ring [ring]/ verb (used without object)

  1. to sound loudly; be loud or resonant; resound (often followed by out):

  2. (of the ears) to have the sensation of a continued humming sound.



a low vibrating sound typical of a contented cat


(of something rapidly rotating or moving to and fro) make a low, continuous, regular sound.


make a buzzing sound


Click, click. The rapid shrill sound constantly came and went, tickling in my ears.


... tickling my ears

Tickling is the act of touching a part of a body in a way that causes involuntary twitching movements or laughter.

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