Definition of lilt in US English:



  • 1A characteristic rising and falling of the voice when speaking; a pleasant gentle accent.

    ‘he spoke with a faint but recognizable Irish lilt’
    • ‘It has a lilt, like gentle waves washing ashore.’
    • ‘His clothes were well-made but worn, and there was a lilt in his voice that seemed to keep my attention.’
    • ‘Never in all his life he heard a sound more angelic, and the lilt of her voice lent itself beautifully to song and story alike.’
    • ‘Yet rather than the French, Argentinian and Dutch tones to be found today, the slang Hill couldn't decipher was the Scottish brogue and the Irish lilt.’
    • ‘She recalled to mind the soft lilt in his voice as he reassured her of how beautiful and talented she was.’
    • ‘Given the gentle lilt of her voice, it's no wonder slow-burning hymns like ‘Isolada’ and ‘Amdjer de Nos Terra’ are her proven domain.’
    • ‘There's a lilt in his voice that was missing some time back.’
    • ‘He comments that when in America he is seen as being Irish, but when in Ireland, because of the slight lilt in his accent, he is taken as being American.’
    • ‘Only the unmistakable lilt of his mid-European accent gives a clue to his unsettled past.’
    • ‘There's deliciously crisp Scottish lilt to her speaking voice, which is sadly lost when she sings.’
    • ‘‘Are you coming back,’ Nicholas Ludwig concernedly asked her with a lilt of his German accent in his voice.’
    • ‘While one of these ‘knights’ had a Merseyside lilt to his voice, both I believe were local people.’
    • ‘I think I have very soft Irish accent anyway, but I'm very proud of my lilt and I don't want to lose it.’
    • ‘Even though the statement was short, I could hear the soft lilt of an Irish accent.’
    • ‘A great sea of red and green, the lilt of familiar voices, the belief that this is our year - all that will help to deflect that mixture of doubt and expectation we brought so often to Croke Park in the past.’
    • ‘Remembering it now, he could again hear the gentle lilt of her English accent as she had confessed how her time with them had seemed more a pleasant lifetime than the short while it had been.’
    • ‘God is there in every platform and on every level, he sees through your eyes and hears the lilt in your voice as you sing.’
    • ‘He spoke at once, just the slightest lilt to his voice betraying his origins.’
    • ‘The lilt in James' voice gives away his Cape Breton roots, but the barbs in his material are clearly Canadian.’
    • ‘So, she has a system of poses and a lilt to her voice and it was very calculated so it was easy to imitate.’
    cadence, rise and fall, inflection, intonation, upswing, emphasis, stress, rhythm, swing, sway, beat, pulse, measure, metre, tempo
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    1. 1.1 A pleasant, gently swinging rhythm in a song or tune.
      ‘the lilt of the Hawaiian music’
      • ‘Rigo and Syran's guitar lines are a revelation, with an almost Hawaiian lilt, sometimes doubled with Caçau de Queiroz clarinet to give a similar effect to electric soukous guitar where occasion calls.’
      • ‘The Cleveland performances were oddly disappointing: inflexible, poker-faced, and without a hint of the sensuous rubato that gives this music its infectious lilt.’
      • ‘In Schubert's music, the Viennese lilt and nuance in the phrasing, touch, singing line and overall style, even the pauses and silences, require complete mastery.’
      • ‘Like her musical heroes Shawn Colvin and Joan Armatrading, Ferrick can dangle a crowd on the lilt of a lyric and nail the nuance of a conflicted feeling with one well-sung word.’
      • ‘Lysa soars with ‘Sweeter Love’, its familiar melody and sugar lilt reflect the happy four-year odyssey this song has had through clubland.’
      • ‘‘Da Symphony’ is guilty on all counts with its Memphis brass stabs, bumping bass and soulful lilts, as is last years' single ‘Bizarre Mind’ for that matter.’
      • ‘For an inordinate seven minutes, the song lilts and rolls into glorified nothingness.’
      • ‘‘The Beautiful Changes’ consists of three six-line stanzas in loose iambics with an anapestic lilt.’
      • ‘Born in Raipur, he grew up on Parsi theatre, silent films and the robust lilt of Chhatisgarthi folk songs that filled the air all around.’
      • ‘Our festivals are incomplete; our songs have lost their lilt.’
      • ‘The beat lilts rather than swings, and there's a sweetness about the melodies that can become cloying if you listen too much.’
      • ‘In turning it to a danceable 8/4 rhythm they completely lost the appealing lilt of the song.’
      • ‘Many of the songs by French artists come with a Latin lilt and tracks from Haiti and Mauritius bring in new instruments and warmer rhythms.’
      • ‘Nonetheless, the spooky harmonies create a wash that flows over the slight acoustic lilts, creating a very pretty pop moment.’
      • ‘Rankin paints the loveliest of pictures with his words and makes you feel right at home with each and every song, every lilt of his voice, every strum of his acoustic guitar.’
      • ‘For instance, the last two tracks, ‘Koukou’ and ‘Here’, share an almost Caribbean lilt.’
      • ‘Each group faithfully captures the swinging lilt of Ory's bands, his sense of dynamics, and the essence of his robust trombone tones.’
      • ‘Again the group chose a rather fast tempo, which with the bagpipe-like drone in the bass parts, gave this movement the lilt of an improvised country dance.’
      • ‘Few early-music specialists conduct Handel opera with more grace, rhythmic lilt, and care for style than Harry Bicket.’
      • ‘And from its midst rises the rhythm and lilt and melody and meaning of words.’
    2. 1.2Scottish archaic A cheerful tune.
      • ‘I do the Scottish Lilt either to the Battle of the Somme (which is also a 9/8 tune) or to original tunes.’
      • ‘The original tunes for the Lilt are 'Drops of Brandy' and 'Brose and Butter'.’


[no object]often as adjective lilting
  • Speak, sing, or sound with a lilt.

    ‘a lilting Welsh accent’
    • ‘Souvenir's packed with ethereal-sounding tracks that show off the immense range of Thirsk's lilting vocals.’
    • ‘His face would float in and out between images of ordinary men and women discovering hope, with lilting music in the background.’
    • ‘The Chennai community, drunk on music, thinks it is high time classical music lilted off the airwaves full-time.’
    • ‘Her voice was mellifluous and lilting and her soft brown eyes had a hint of mischief in them.’
    • ‘Chan's fierce power in the opening Allegro kept the performance lilting - borne aloft on wings of song.’
    • ‘The language used is simple yet lilting, and the meaning is profound.’
    • ‘Standard French is widely spoken, albeit in a distinctive, lilting French West Indian accent.’
    • ‘The melody was at times slow and lilting, and other times fast-paced and merry.’
    • ‘Interestingly, the whale songs are rhythmic and lilting, using similar scale patterns found in human music.’
    • ‘People in fancy clothing mingled in front of the gym and the music lilted out across the grass.’
    • ‘The voice was not her normal incomprehensible croak but lucid and lilting and slightly posh, like the voice of the lady who read the six o'clock news on the BBC.’
    • ‘But lilting Irish brogues and ebullient ribaldry are not enough to temper O'Casey's disgusted misanthropy.’
    • ‘Then to change the atmosphere he played a few festival songs, light and lilting and filling the heart with summer breezes.’
    • ‘The crow's voice was magical and lilting, as if it were playing an instrument rather than talking.’
    • ‘When we trained at the indoor pool, opera lilted from the public-address system.’
    • ‘The words work best as a means to an end, leaving the melodies and lilting harmonies for your foremost enjoyment.’
    • ‘The four girls, Kelly, Tara and sisters Ciara and Cathy, blend pure, lilting harmonies with timeless pop melodies.’
    • ‘The song started out lilting and slow, just like the original version that I already knew by heart.’
    • ‘He doesn't so much speak to you as he lulls you in lilting, mellifluous tones.’
    • ‘Its warmth circled the amply furnished common room it bordered, mixing with the early spring breeze lilting in through the open windows.’
    melodious, melodic, musical, mellifluous, sweet-sounding, pleasant-sounding, dulcet, euphonious, harmonious, lyrical, lilting
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Late Middle English lulte (in the senses ‘sound an alarm’ or ‘lift up the voice’), of unknown origin.