Pronunciation Noun

hiss (plural hisses)

  1. A sibilant sound, such as that made by a snake or escaping steam; an unvoiced fricative.
    • circa 1590 William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act III, Scene 2,
      Their music frightful as the serpent’s hiss,
      And boding screech-owls make the concert full!
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 6, lines 212-213,
      […] over head the dismal hiss
      Of fiery Darts in flaming volies flew,
    • 1717, John Dryden (translator), Ovid’s Metamorphoses, London: Jacob Tonson, Book 13, “The Story of Acis, Polyphemus and Galatea,” p. ,
      A hundred Reeds, of a prodigious Growth,
      Scarce made a Pipe, proportion’d to his Mouth:
      Which, when he gave it Wind, the Rocks around,
      And watry Plains, the dreadful Hiss resound.
    • 1874, Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, Chapter 31,
      […] his form was soon covered over by the twilight as his footsteps mixed in with the low hiss of the leafy trees.
    • 1951, William Styron, Lie Down in Darkness (novel), New York: Vintage, 1992, Chapter 6, p. 292,
      Her voice was a hiss, like gas escaping from a bottle of soda.
  2. An expression of disapproval made using such a sound.
    • 1583, John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, Volume 2, Part 2, London: John Day, 4th edition, “The Oration of James Brooks (bishop) in closing vp this examination agaynst Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Caunterbury,” p. 1878,
      […] in open disputations ye haue bene openly conuict, ye haue bene openly driuen out of the schole with hisses […]
    • 1716, Joseph Addison, The Free-Holder, 16 April, 1716, London: D. Midwinter and J. Tonson, pp. 203-204,
      The Actors, in the midst of an innocent old Play, are often startled with unexpected Claps or Hisses; and do not know whether they have been talking like good Subjects, or have spoken Treason.
    • 1869, Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad, Chapter 29,
      Once or twice she was encored five and six times in succession, and received with hisses when she appeared, and discharged with hisses and laughter when she had finished—then instantly encored and insulted again!
Translations Translations
  • French: siffler
  • Italian: soffio
  • Russian: шипе́ние
  • Spanish: siseo

hiss (hisses, present participle hissing; past and past participle hissed)

  1. (intransitive) To make a hissing sound.
    As I started to poke it, the snake hissed at me.
    • 1567, Arthur Golding (translator), The XV. Bookes of Ovid, entytuled Metamorphoses, London: Willyam Seres, Book 12, p. 152,
      And in his wound the seared blood did make a gréeuous sound,
      As when a peece of stéele red who tane vp with tongs is drownd
      In water by the smith, it spirts and hisseth in the trowgh.
    • 1797, Ann Ward Radcliffe, The Italian (novel), London: T. Cadell Jun. & W. Davies, Volume 2, Chapter 7, p. 236,
      The man came back, and said something in a lower voice, to which the other replied, “she sleeps,” or Ellena was deceived by the hissing consonants of some other words.
    • 1995, Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, Chapter 10, p. 487,
      The frying pan hissed and sizzled as Ishvar gently slid ping-pong sized balls into the glistening oil.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To condemn or express contempt (for someone or something) by hissing.
    The crowd booed and hissed her off the stage.
    • circa 1599 William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (play), Act I, Scene 2,
      If the tag-rag people did not clap him and hiss him, according as he pleased and displeased them, as they use to do the players in the theatre, I am no true man.
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Book of Ezekiel 27.36,
      The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee […]
    • 1793, Elizabeth Inchbald, Every One Has His Fault, London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, Prologue,
      The Play, perhaps, has many things amiss:
      Well, let us then reduce the point to this,
      Let only those that have no failings, hiss.
    • 1803, Robert Charles Dallas, The History of the Maroons, London: Longman and Rees, Volume 1, Letter 5, p. 145,
      As the culprits went through the town and plantations they were laughed at, hissed, and hooted by the slaves […]
    • 1961, Walker Percy, The Moviegoer, New York: Ivy Books, 1988, Part 1, Chapter 4, p. 38,
      How well I remember, her stepmother told her, the days when we Wagnerians used to hiss old Brahms—O for the rapturous rebellious days of youth.
  3. (transitive) To utter (something) with a hissing sound.
    • 1761, Robert Lloyd (poet), An Epistle to Charles Churchill (satirist), London: William Flexney, p. 7,
      Lies oft o’erthrown with ceaseless Venom spread,
      Still hiss out Scandal from their Hydra Head,
    • 1855, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Maud (poem)” in Maud, and Other Poems, London: Moxon, p. 20,
      […] the long-necked geese of the world that are ever hissing dispraise […]
    • 2012, Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies, New York: Henry Holt, Part 2, “Master of Phantoms,”
      All day from the queen’s rooms, shouting, slamming doors, running feet: hissed conversations in undertones.
  4. (intransitive) To move with a hissing sound.
    The arrow hissed through the air.
    • 1718, Alexander Pope (translator), The Iliad of Homer, London: Bernard Lintott, Volume 4, Book 15, lines 690-691, p. 192,
      The Troops of Troy recede with sudden Fear,
      While the swift Javelin hiss’d along in Air.
    • 1815, William Wordsworth, “Influence of Natural Objects” in Poems by William Wordsworth, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, Volume 1, p. 46,
      All shod with steel
      We hissed along the polished ice […]
    • 1891, Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Chapter ,
      All the preceding afternoon and night heavy thunderstorms had hissed down upon the meads, and washed some of the hay into the river […]
    • 1997, Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” in Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories, London: Harper Perennial, 2005, p. 283,
      Ennis del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames.
  5. (transitive) To emit or eject (something) with a hissing sound.
    • 1938, Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (novel), London: Heinemann, Part 2, Chapter 1, p. 72,
      The man in white pyjamas hissed soda into his glass.
    • 1939, John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (novel), New York: Viking, Chapter 26, p. 500,
      The radiator bubbled and hissed steam.
    • 1976, Ira Levin, The Boys from Brazil (novel), New York: Dell, 1977, Part 1, p. 16,
      He hissed air intently through a gap in his upper teeth.
  6. (transitive) To whisper, especially angrily or urgently.

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