I am having some problems to differentiate between "yell" and "scream".

From what I understand (and read), when somebody screams he/she is shouting in a loud way. Then, yelling is the same, only that it has the connotation of shouting out of control.

Am I right? Is there any piece of context I am missing?

  • In my mind, scream refers mostly to the sound/noise, while yell is directed. Often you yell at someone. Also yell is more verbal. But the difference is not so much. Some context or examples would be helpful.
    – user3169
    May 5, 2016 at 6:16
  • @user3169 this comes from a question I asked in another Stack Exchange site. I want to express the sound an infant produces when he just shouts randomly. It is something without a direction, because can be done when he is alone.
    – fedorqui
    May 5, 2016 at 6:19
  • 2
    I'd prefer 'scream' when the things are horrific! ;P
    – Maulik V
    May 5, 2016 at 8:30
  • 3
    @rogermue - ?! I would think of it in exactly the opposite way! To me, scream implies a higher pitch than yell.
    – stangdon
    May 5, 2016 at 12:02
  • 1
    @rogermue, maybe you are thinking of yelp? dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/yelp
    – JavaLatte
    May 5, 2016 at 13:28

3 Answers 3


scream - to cry or say something loudly and usually on a high note, especially because of strong emotions such as fear, excitement, or anger

yell - to shout something or make a loud noise, usually when you are angry, in pain, or excited

Both definitions are very similar, as is the generally understood meaning.

Some people might have a preference about which word to use in a particular situation, but that would be a personal preference rather than a difference in generally understood meaning.

For example, I would probably use scream rather than yell about something non-verbal- for example the noise people make when they are on a rollercoaster ride at the fairground.

  • Both definitions are quite similar, so I am still missing the point here. What makes the difference here: the height? whether it is a controlled emotion or not?
    – fedorqui
    May 5, 2016 at 11:26
  • @fedorqui, the point is that the generally understood meanings are every similar.
    – JavaLatte
    May 5, 2016 at 13:26
  • 1
    I would use yell and not scream if I'm talking loudly because I want to be heard in a noisy environment or from far away. To me screaming is either an indication of very strong emotion, or it is high pitched yelling (probably because voices tend to go up in pitch when people are excited). For example, "The children screamed with glee." or "She yelled 'I'll be right there!' as she started walking across the construction site." If she screamed "I'll be right there!" I would think she was panicked or angry or frustrated instead of just trying to be heard.
    – ColleenV
    May 5, 2016 at 15:21
  • 1
    @ColleenV, exactly- we all have personal preferences but they are not universal. I would use yell for anger, scream for fear, shout for raising the voice in order to be heard.
    – JavaLatte
    May 6, 2016 at 6:34

They can be used interchangeablly in many situations, like big and large. For example, screaming, yelling, hollering, shouting, and crying can all refer to words uttered at a high volume.

"You dirty SOB, you're gonna regret the day you were born!" screamed/yelled/shouted/hollered/cried Bill.

However, there can be a difference between screaming and yelling.

This is screaming. There are no words to this kind of screaming, just an expression of horror. Compare the noise to a crying baby. This is not usually described as yelling. Because when you yell, shout, holler, etc you are usually producing actual words.

Note the video Top Ten Movie Yells includes "yells only in which words are spoken," thus differentiating yells from screams (the famous shower scene in Psycho is a scream, not a yell).

Both 'scream' and 'cry' can refer to times when someone makes loud vocal noises that do not include actual words. If it is a baby we usually use the word cry. If it is someone who can talk, we can use either cry or scream.

When words are included, it can also be called a yell, holler, shout.

Particular contexts and historical usages make it difficult to cover all cases. For example, a battle cry may be called a yell even though it contains no words as such. The battle cry of the South, the Rebel Yell, is an example.


The differences in connotation vary by location, but generally "yelling" is less loud and, more importantly, less intense. If one is screaming, it is at the top of their voice, sometimes incoherent, and sometimes accompanied by physical violence.

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