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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 quavering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Not of age—merely of time; for here was no senility, no quavering or fretful lines.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • My heart sank and my voice dwindled to a quavering, unfamiliar whisper.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • Still looking from him, "I said you were very good to me," she said in a quavering whisper.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
  • A querulous, high-pitched voice, quavering with the palsy of extreme age.

    The Slave Of The Lamp Henry Seton Merriman
  • "Dass his blood," he said, in the same gentle, quavering tone.

    The Gentleman From Indiana Booth Tarkington
  • Her voice, although feeble and quavering, was determined in tone.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede George MacDonald
  • His voice was as odd as his appearance, it was high-pitched and quavering.

    A Nest of Spies Pierre Souvestre
  • Glory's voice, which had been quavering at first, gathered strength.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • I asked him in a voice that was as cold and steady as his was hot and quavering.

    The Shame of Motley Raphael Sabatini
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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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