So this question gives an answer to the difference between yell and scream, but I'd also like clarification about shout and cry, which have to be linked with the other two. Whatever the case when I use one of them I feel like I used the wrong one.

Also, the top answer used "to cry" in the definition of "to scream" and "to shout" in the definition of "to yell". Most dictionaries also give other words as definitions, which doesn't help.

I have a bunch of related question which I think makes sense to be asked and answer together. When I ask for difference about words, it's mostly for edge cases.

Of course, I mean cry in other ways that "to shed tears". I would think that it implies that you're in danger (i.e. "cry for help") and it's not directed to anyone, but what about "battle cry" ? Are there other uses that don't imply you're in danger ?

What's the word for when a metal vocalist "sings" very loudly in the mic ? Is it yelling if it's not directed to someone in particular ? And if a rapper raps increasingly louder, is he screaming or yelling at the end ? IMO yelling can never be non-annoying, am I correct ?

To describe someone cursing really loud, what do you use ? Is it different words depending on if the insults are directed to someone or just interjections like "SHIT!" ?


2 Answers 2


"Shout" and "yell" are more or less synonymous. Other than style or poetry (and a few idiomatic expressions), I can't think of any reason why you couldn't use one in place of the other.

A "scream" includes a shrill note that indicates extreme emotion. This is the infamous "Wilhelm Scream'.

These are also screams: American girls screaming at the Beatles

A "cry" is a loud exclamation, often sounding like someone (or something) in distress. There is also the additional nuance that a "cry" is meant to be heard over some distance.

As you mentioned, you can "cry" for help, but so can animals: Bear cub crying for its mom.. We can describe the sound wildcats make as "cries" (or "screams") even though these are not from distress, because it sounds like something that needs help.

(Edit) We would most likely say that a heavy metal vocalist screams into the microphone. Apparently this (along with growling) is the actual term for this style. As a scream, by definition, includes higher-pitched elements, a rapper who is "singing" loudly into the mike could be said to be either shouting or yelling.

Be aware that, in current slang, to "shout out" means to "favorably acknowledge" as in "a public expression of thanks".

I want to give a shout out to all of my fans, without whom I wouldn't be here on this stage.

  • Can you say "stop shouting!" to kids that are being really noisy? I feel like" stop yelling" is the only valid option here. Does shout have the same inherent annoyingness as yell ? (if yell has any). Feb 3, 2017 at 16:37
  • 2
    Yes, you can say "stop shouting" or "stop yelling", they're mostly the same thing. Both can describe annoying loud behavior. There are a few idiomatic expressions that use "shout", but some of these I've never heard (or heard differently), and some you may use "yell" instead of "shout".
    – Andrew
    Feb 3, 2017 at 16:52
  • +1 @Andrew. So we can freely use both "shouting" and "yelling" in everyday conversation, both in anger situation (when one is angry at someone) and in distance occasion when one needs to be heard. Right?
    – A-friend
    Jun 12, 2019 at 13:18
  • @A-friend More or less. Sometimes one will "sound" better than another, and again there are idiomatic expressions for each that can affect the meaning (e.g. "a shouting match", "shout (it) from the rooftops", etc.)
    – Andrew
    Jun 12, 2019 at 18:53
  • 1
    @A-friend I don't think either of those statements is true. You can shout in anger, and you can yell to someone far away.
    – Andrew
    Jun 12, 2019 at 20:43

yell - You yell typically when you want attention or are trying to be heard over noise or a distance. Yelling is typically directed at or for someone/something specific. You can yell for someone to try to get someone's attention or them to come to you.

shout - You shout at someone when you want them to hear you or are trying to be heard over noise or a distance. This will of course draw attention to you but is sometimes a secondary fact with shouting. Sometimes shouting is not directed at anyone specific but to a group of people or just to communicate the loudness of one's voice.

scream - You scream typically when scared or in pain. Screams also happen with emotional extremes. A scream is stronger/more startling than a yell or a shout.

cry - You cry typically when sad or in pain. Crying out is equivalent to shout with an added connotation of needing help. Cry can describe what a baby or young child does but isn't necessarily loud if describing an adult.

  • "Cry" can also be used for any loud exclamation, such as "a battle cry" or "a joyous cry". Examples: "He would answer to 'Hi!' or to any loud cry" (The Hunting of the Snark), "And he carries the reminder of every blow that laid him down or cut him, 'til he cried out, in his anger and his pain, 'I am leaving, I am leaving' but the fighter still remains." (The Boxer Simon and Garfunkel), "And with a monarch's voice, cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war." (Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 1, Shakespeare), "Cry 'Harold'" (appeal for royal justice) Jun 12, 2019 at 21:45

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