late Old English, scræmen, scremen, "utter a piercing cry, cry out with a shrill voice," a word of uncertain origin, similar to words in Scandinavian, Dutch, German, and Flemish (such as Old Norse skræma "to terrify, scare away," skramsa "to scream;" Swedish scrana "to scream," Middle Dutch schremen, scremen, Dutch schreijen "cry aloud, shriek," Old High German scrian, German schreien "to cry"). Related: Screamed; screaming.
Of inanimate things by 1784 (fiddle music). The sense of "communicate (something) strongly" is by 1957. Screaming meemies is World War I army slang, originally a soldiers' name for a type of German artillery shell that made a loud noise in flight (from French woman's name Mimi), extended to the battle fatigue caused by long exposure to enemy fire.
c. 1500, "a sharp, piercing sound or cry," expressive of pain, alarm, etc., from scream (v.).
And (as they say) lamentings heard i' th' Ayre; Strange Schreemes of Death. ["Macbeth," II.iii.61]
That spelling probably reflects "sk-" as spelled in words from Latin (such as school; see sch); his early editions also have schreene for screen. The slang meaning "something very great, excellent, or exciting," especially "something that evokes a cry of laughter" is by 1888; screamer in this sense is from 1831.
1712, "one who or that which screams," agent noun from scream (v.). As a type of bird by 1773. By 1831 as "something excellent or exciting." In newspapers, "a large headline" (1890).
"lockjaw," 1690s, Modern Latin, from Greek trismos "a scream; a grinding, rasping," akin to trizein "to chirp, gnash," imitative.
c. 1600, "belonging to the earliest age or stage," from Medieval Latin primalis "primary," from Latin primus "first" (see prime (adj.)). Psychological sense, in reference to Freud's theory of behaviors springing from the earliest stage of emotional development, is attested from 1918. Primal scream in psychology is from a best-selling book of 1971 (Arthur Janov, "The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis"). Related: Primality.
"to scream; screech; utter a sharp, shrill cry," from pain, fear, grief, also of laughter, a 16c. variant of scrycke, skriken (c. 1200), from Old Norse skrækja "to screech" (see screech), probably of imitative origin. Transitive sense is from 1590s. Related: Shrieked; shrieking. The noun is attested from 1580s, "a sharp, shrill outcry," from the verb.
A shriek is sharper, more sudden, and, when due to fear or pain, indicative of more terror or distress than a scream. Screech emphasizes the disagreeableness of the sharpness or shrillness, and its lack of dignity in a person. It is more distinctly figurative to speak of the shriek of a locomotive than to speak of its scream or screech. [Century Dictionary]
1650s, from French strident (16c.) and directly from Latin stridentem (nominative stridens), present participle of stridere "utter an inarticulate sound, grate, screech," from PIE *(s)trei-, possibly of imitative origin (source also of Greek trismos "a grinding, scream"). Related: Stridently; stridence; stridency.
Old English wepan "shed tears, cry; bewail, mourn over; complain" (class VII strong verb; past tense weop, past participle wopen), from Proto-Germanic *wopjan (source also of Old Norse op, Old High German wuof "shout, shouting, crying," Old Saxon wopian, Gothic wopjan "to shout, cry out, weep"), from PIE *wab- "to cry, scream" (source also of Latin vapulare "to be flogged;" Old Church Slavonic vupiti "to call," vypu "gull"). Of water naturally forming on stones, walls, etc., from c. 1400. Related: Wept; weeping; weeper.
"long-necked, long-legged wading bird," c. 1300, from Old French hairon, eron (12c.), earlier hairo (11c., Modern French héron), from Frankish *haigiro or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *hraigran. Related to Old High German heigaro, Danish hejre "heron," German Reiher, Dutch reiger, Old Norse hegri), perhaps from a common IE root imitative of its cry (compare Old Church Slavonic kriku "cry, scream," Lithuanian krykšti "to shriek," Welsh cregyra "heron," Latin graculus "jackdaw, crow"). Old English cognate hraga did not survive into Middle English. Egret is from the same source.
late 14c., "to trick, beguile, jilt; to mock," also "to act foolishly; to speak jokingly, jest pleasantly," perhaps from Old French japer "to howl, bawl, scream" (Modern French japper), of echoic origin, or from Old French gaber "to mock, deride." Phonetics suits the former, but sense the latter explanation. Chaucer has it in the full range of senses. Around mid-15c. the Middle English word took on a slang sense of "have sex with" and subsequently vanished from polite usage. It was revived in the benign sense of "say or do something in jest" by Scott, etc., and has limped along since in stilted prose. Related: Japed; japing.