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.

  • 2
    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

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.

  • 3
    If the word were onomatopoeic, it would hardly be used, would it?
    – JeffSahol
    Dec 18 '11 at 4:11
  • 1
    @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 '15 at 20:29

I would call it chalkboard screech.


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.


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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5hrMdtOmrU&feature=related (The sound I'm describing can be heard starting at 0:10).


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


Chill-sending screech.

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


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???


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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