verb (used without object), quaked, quak·ing.

(of persons) to shake or tremble from cold, weakness, fear, anger, or the like: He spoke boldly even though his legs were quaking.
(of things) to shake or tremble, as from shock, internal convulsion, or instability: The earth suddenly began to quake.


an earthquake.
a trembling or tremulous agitation.

Origin of quake

before 900; Middle English; Old English cwacian to shake, tremble
Related formsquak·ing·ly, adverbun·quak·ing, adjective

Synonyms for quake

1. shudder. See shiver1. 2. quiver.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for quaking

Contemporary Examples of quaking

Historical Examples of quaking

  • Standing on that quaking wall Foulet and I stared at each other.

  • Quaking, reeling, almost falling, she came tottering down the patio.

    The Scapegoat

    Hall Caine

  • Father Pifferi, quaking with fear, thought he was there to protect Roma.

  • Then the wreckers, hand in hand, quaking and whimpering, stepped out to the mouth of the cave.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • Quaking with undefined fears, he pushed on until he had joined them.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for quaking



unstable or unsafe to walk on, as a bog or quicksanda quaking bog; quaking sands


verb (intr)

to shake or tremble with or as with fear
to convulse or quiver, as from instability


the act or an instance of quaking
informal short for earthquake

Word Origin for quake

Old English cwacian; related to Old English cweccan to shake, Old Irish bocaim, German wackeln
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

Word Origin and History for quaking



Old English cwacian "quake, tremble, chatter (of teeth)," related to cweccan "to shake, swing, move, vibrate," of unknown origin with no certain cognates outside English. Perhaps somehow imitative. In reference to earth tremors, probably by c.1200. Related: Quaked; quaking.



early 14c., "a trembling in fear," from quake (v.). Rare except in combinations. Now usually as a shortening of earthquake, in which use it is attested from 1640s. Old English had the verbal noun cwacung "shaking, trembling."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper