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.


Origin of quaver

1400–50; late Middle English quaveren (v.), blend of quake and waver1
Related formsqua·ver·er, nounqua·ver·ing·ly, adverbqua·ver·y, qua·ver·ous, adjectiveun·qua·ver·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for quaver

Historical Examples of quaver

  • "But it must be sillier than usual," said Harriet, and her voice began to quaver.

  • "One thousand and three hundred," said Ayoub with a quaver of uneasy defiance.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Mr. Quaver's red nose was redder than ever, and he had a stern look.

    Winning His Way

    Charles Carleton Coffin

  • Mr. Quaver led, and the choir followed like sheep, all in their own way and fashion.

    Winning His Way

    Charles Carleton Coffin

  • Mr. Quaver and the old members opposed it, but they were voted down.

    Winning His Way

    Charles Carleton Coffin

British Dictionary definitions for quaver



to say or sing (something) with a trembling voice
(intr) (esp of the voice) to quiver, tremble, or shake
(intr) rare to sing or play quavers or ornamental trills


music a note having the time value of an eighth of a semibreveUsual US and Canadian name: eighth note
a tremulous sound or note
Derived Formsquaverer, nounquavering, adjectivequaveringly, adverbquavery, adjective

Word Origin for quaver

C15 (in the sense: to vibrate, quiver 1): 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

Word Origin and History for quaver

"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