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[kwey-ver] /ˈkweɪ vər/
verb (used without object)
to shake tremulously; quiver or tremble:
He stood there quavering with fear.
to sound, speak, or sing tremulously:
Her voice quavered a moment and then she regained control.
to perform trills in singing or on a musical instrument.
verb (used with object)
to utter, say, or sing with a quavering or tremulous voice.
a quavering or tremulous shake, especially in the voice.
a quavering tone or utterance.
Music (chiefly British) . an eighth note.
Origin of quaver
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English quaveren (v.), blend of quake and waver1
Related forms
quaverer, noun
quaveringly, adverb
quavery, quaverous, adjective
unquavering, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for quavered
Historical Examples
  • He quavered uncertainly down the steps, and Amelia called a halt.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • "You see how it—how it made me look, mama," she quavered, having concluded her narrative.

    Alice Adams Booth Tarkington
  • Henriette endeavored to comfort them, but it was in a voice that quavered strangely.

    The Downfall Emile Zola
  • "I trust there has been no misunderstanding," quavered Mrs. Munt.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • "It must have been the Hamburg bark that sailed last night," quavered Scanlon.

  • In a voice that quavered a bit he asked me why did I say that?

    Lord Jim Joseph Conrad
  • "Why, why really my dear fellow," he quavered, addressing the half-figure.

    The 4-D Doodler Graph Waldeyer
  • "They are watching to see what Warboise will do," quavered Brother Biscoe.

    Brother Copas

    Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
  • "I don't know what to do, I'm sure," quavered the woman irresolutely.

    The Grell Mystery Frank Froest
  • "She'll half kill me to-night," quavered poor Susannah Maude.

British Dictionary definitions for quavered


to say or sing (something) with a trembling voice
(intransitive) (esp of the voice) to quiver, tremble, or shake
(intransitive) (rare) to sing or play quavers or ornamental trills
(music) a note having the time value of an eighth of a semibreve Usual US and Canadian name eighth note
a tremulous sound or note
Derived Forms
quaverer, noun
quavering, adjective
quaveringly, adverb
quavery, adjective
Word Origin
C15 (in the sense: to vibrate, quiver1): from quaven to tremble, of Germanic origin; compare Low German quabbeln to tremble
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for quavered



"to vibrate, tremble," early 15c., probably a frequentative of cwavien "to tremble, shake" (early 13c.), which probably is related to Low German quabbeln "tremble," and possibly of imitative origin. Meaning "sing in trills or quavers" first recorded 1530s. Related: Quavered; quavering.



1560s, in music, "eighth note," from quaver (v.). Meaning "a tremble in the voice" is from 1748.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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