screech (v.)

"cry out with a sharp, shrill voice," 1570s, an alteration of scritch (mid-13c., schrichen), perhaps a general Germanic word (compare Old Frisian skrichta, Muddle Dutch schrien), probably ultimately of imitative origin (compare shriek). Also compare screak, "utter a shrill, harsh cry," c. 1500, from Old Norse skrækja, also probably echoic. Related: Screeched; screeching.

Of wagon-wheels, door-hinges, etc., "make a shrill, grating sound," 1560s. Screech-owl is attested from 1590s (scritch-owl is from 1520s) in reference to the barn-owl; in the U.S. the term is applied to small horned owls. The name is given to owls that "screech" as distinguished from ones that hoot. The cry was regarded as ominous.

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screech (n.)

"sharp, shrill cry," 1550s, from screech (v.). Earlier scritch (1510s). In reference to a harsh, squeaking noise made by something, by 1882.

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"shriek, screech," see screech. Related: Scritch-owl (1520s).

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shriek (v.)

16c. variant of scrycke (c. 1200), from Old Norse skrækja "to screech" (see screech), probably of imitative origin. Related: Shrieked; shrieking. The noun is attested from 1580s, 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]
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strident (adj.)
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.
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hoot (v.)
"to call or shout in disapproval or scorn," c. 1600, probably related to or a variant of Middle English houten, huten "to shout, call out" (c. 1200), which is more or less imitative of the sound of the thing. First used of bird cries, especially that of the owl, mid-15c. Meaning "to laugh" is from 1926. Related: Hooted; hooting. A hoot owl (1826) is distinguished from a screech owl.
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lich (n.)

also litch, lych, "body, corpse," a southern England dialectal survival of Old English lic "body, dead body, corpse," from Proto-Germanic *likow (source also of Old Frisian lik, Dutch lijk, Old High German lih, German Leiche "corpse, dead body," Old Norse lik, Danish lig, Swedish lik, Gothic leik), probably originally "form, shape," and identical with like (adj.).

Also in Old English in an expanded form lichama (Middle English licham), with hama "shape, garment, covering." This is etymologically pleonastic, but the image perhaps is of the body as the garment of the soul. The compound has a cognate in Old High German lihhinamo. A litch-gate (also lych-gate) was a roofed gate to a churchyard under which a bier is placed to await the coming of the clergyman; lich-owl "screech-owl" was so called because it was supposed to forebode death. Old English also had licburg "cemetery," lichhaemleas "incorporeal."

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kite (n.)

European bird of prey, inferior hawk (Milvus ictinus, but applied elsewhere to similar birds), Old English cyta, probably imitative of its cry (compare ciegan "to call," German Kauz "screech owl"). Of persons who prey on others, 1550s.

The toy kite, a light frame covered with paper or cloth, is first so-called 1660s, from its way of hovering in the air like a bird. The dismissive invitation to go fly a kite is attested by 1942, American English, probably tracing to the popular song of the same name (lyrics by Johnny Burke), sung by Bing Crosby in "The Star Maker" (1939):

Go fly a kite and tie your troubles to the tail
They'll be blown away by a merry gale,
Go fly a kite and toss your worries to the wind
And they won't come back, they'll be too chagrined.
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lamia (n.)

female demon, late 14c., from Latin lamia "witch, sorceress, vampire," from Greek lamia "female vampire, man-eating monster," literally "swallower, lecher," from laimos "throat, gullet" (see larynx). Perhaps cognate with Latin lemures "spirits of the dead" (see lemur) and, like it, borrowed from a non-IE language. Used in early translations of the Bible for screech owls and sea monsters. In Middle English also sometimes, apparently, mermaids:

Also kynde erreþ in som beestes wondirliche j-schape, as it fareþ in a beest þat hatte lamia, þat haþ an heed as a mayde & body as a grym fissche[;] whan þat best lamya may fynde ony man, first a flatereþ wiþ hym with a wommannes face and makeþ hym ligge by here while he may dure, & whanne he may noferþere suffice to here lecherye þanne he rendeþ hym and sleþ and eteþ hym. [Bartholomew Glanville, "De proprietatibus rerum," c. 1240, translated by John of Trevisa c. 1398]
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