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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for quavering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "I slew him in the house of a seaman," said the boy, in a quavering voice.

    The Pointing Man Marjorie Douie
  • The quavering breath left his throat in long moans as he ran on and on and on.

    The Promise James B. Hendryx
  • Is not the delight of the quavering upon a stop in music the same with the playing of light upon the water?

  • Lights were poured on her, and quavering voices asked, "Have you got him?"

    A Simpleton Charles Reade
  • But while doing so, she does not stay her quavering and garrulous recital.

    A Warwickshire Lad George Madden Martin
  • A faint, quavering moan stopped her at the corner of the house.

    The Lady Doc Caroline Lockhart
  • Her voice sank into quavering hesitation, a sob interrupted her.

    The Curate in Charge Margaret Oliphant
  • He was still able to sustain, if it were necessary, a quavering, imperfect phrase.

    The Hill Horace Annesley Vachell
  • The quavering voice of the irascible old villain had lost some of its malice.

British Dictionary definitions for quavering


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 quavering



"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.



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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