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 quavery

Historical Examples of quavery

  • It was the voice of Grannie, low and quavery; she was rocking the cradle.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • His voice was high and quavery; not a good pulpit voice, Conn thought.

    The Cosmic Computer

    Henry Beam Piper

  • It was as quavery as old Doctor Fleury's, the Methodist preacher who's laid off from work.

    Mary Cary

    Kate Langley Bosher

  • But a thin and quavery and over-disturbing sound from the swing-box out on the sleeping-porch brought me up short.

    The Prairie Mother

    Arthur Stringer

  • “It would be good to set the mizzen-topgallant,” I heard Captain West mutter in a weak, quavery voice.

British Dictionary definitions for quavery



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 quavery



"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