verb (used without object)

to shake or tremble with cold, fear, excitement, etc.
  1. (of a fore-and-aft sail) to shake when too close to the wind.
  2. (of a sailing vessel) to be headed so close to the wind that the sails shake.


a tremulous motion; a tremble or quiver: The thought sent a shiver down her spine.
shivers, an attack of shivering or chills (usually preceded by the).

Origin of shiver

1150–1200; Middle English chivere (noun); later sh-, apparently for the sake of alliteration in phrase chiver and shake
Related formsshiv·er·er, nounshiv·er·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for shiver

1. Shiver, quake, shudder refer to a vibratory muscular movement, a trembling, usually involuntary. We shiver with cold, or a sensation such as that of cold: to shiver in thin clothing on a frosty day; to shiver with pleasant anticipation. We quake especially with fear: to quake with fright. We shudder with horror or abhorrence; the agitation is more powerful and deep-seated than shivering or trembling: to shudder at pictures of a concentration camp.



verb (used with or without object)

to break or split into fragments.


a fragment; splinter.

Origin of shiver

1150–1200; (noun) Middle English schivere fragment; cognate with German Schiefer schist; (v.) Middle English schiveren, derivative of the noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shiver

Contemporary Examples of shiver

Historical Examples of shiver

  • You shiver because your grandfathers and fathers and uncles have shivered there before you.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • He did not see Dick, but his very presence gave the lad a shiver.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • I'm in a shiver about you, but—It's all true, Roger, what your mother said about 2nd Lieutenants.

    Echoes of the War

    J. M. Barrie

  • Her gaze was fixed upon him; he saw her shiver, and knew that she saw and recognized him.

    Salted With Fire

    George MacDonald

  • It snowed and stormed, and she was allowed to shiver on the platform.

British Dictionary definitions for shiver



verb (intr)

to shake or tremble, as from cold or fear
  1. (of a sail) to luff; flap or shake
  2. (of a sailing vessel) to sail close enough to the wind to make the sails luff


the act of shivering; a tremulous motion
the shivers an attack of shivering, esp through fear or illness
Derived Formsshiverer, nounshivering, adjective

Word Origin for shiver

C13 chiveren, perhaps variant of chevelen to chatter (used of teeth), from Old English ceafl jowl 1




to break or cause to break into fragments


a splintered piece

Word Origin for shiver

C13: of Germanic origin; compare Old High German scivaro, Middle Dutch scheveren to shiver, Old Norse skīfa to split
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 shiver

"shake," c.1400, alteration of chiveren (c.1200), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old English ceafl "jaw," on notion of chattering teeth. Spelling change of ch- to sh- is probably from influence of shake. Related: Shivered; shivering.


"small piece, splinter, fragment, chip," c.1200, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English word, related to Middle Low German schever schiver "splinter," Old High German scivero, from Proto-Germanic *skif- "split" (cf. Old High German skivaro "splinter," German Schiefer "splinter, slate"), from PIE *skei- "to cut, split" (see shed (v.)). Commonly in phrases to break to shivers "break into bits" (mid-15c.). Also, shiver is still dialectal for "a splinter" in Norfolk and Lincolnshire.


"to break in or into many small pieces," c.1200, from the source of shiver (n.). Chiefly in phrase shiver me timbers (1835), "a mock oath attributed in comic fiction to sailors" [OED]. My timbers! as a nautical oath (probably euphemistic) is attested from 1789 (see timber (n.)). Related: Shivered; shivering.


"a tremulous, quivering motion," 1727, from shiver (v.1). The shivers in reference to fever chills is from 1861.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper