Definition of quaver in English:



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  • (of a person's voice) shake or tremble in speaking, typically through nervousness or emotion.

    ‘his voice quavered with rage’
    ‘‘I'm not safe here, am I?’ she said in a quavering voice’
    • ‘My brother's voice was quavering on the other end of the line.’
    • ‘He came out, bowed down with sorrow, to settle on a bench, his voice quavering with a barely audible Yiddish lament.’
    • ‘Beres Hammond brings a deep sense of hurt and resignation to ‘Just Like a Woman’ as his voice quavers and breaks at the bridge; it's a warm lament over plangent Hammond organ.’
    • ‘Monty spins to attention, his head raised with great offense, his voice quavering with emotion - ‘Why did you say that?’’
    • ‘But her voice never even quavered, and that made me think she might actually make a decent public defender.’
    • ‘He was using his acting ability to sound confident and fearless, but I heard his voice quaver in spite of himself.’
    • ‘It might have just been the connection, but he thought he heard her voice quavering.’
    • ‘He was breathy, his voice quavered, he stumbled over words, he was stilted and uncomfortable.’
    • ‘‘I couldn't stop in time,’ he explained, voice quavering.’
    • ‘‘But in the photo I saw in the paper later, he was standing in the very front,’ she said, her voice quavering.’
    • ‘To hear King - the real King - speak in that strange, quavering but powerful voice: ‘I had a dream’, you can hear and feel where the man got his traction.’
    • ‘His voice quavering, the senator added, ‘I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military.’’
    • ‘At least my voice wasn't quavering with every syllable.’
    • ‘Nervous in the extreme, his voice quavered as he gave commands to his pupil, often so haltingly that he seemed nearly on the verge of choking.’
    • ‘I tried to make the question light, but I felt my voice quaver.’
    • ‘‘Sir,’ his voice quavered as he spoke, ‘they always look hungry to me.’’
    • ‘Her voice quavers at the memories from inside but you get the sense she is far from beaten.’
    • ‘Although the friendly Dominicans spoke courteously to one another while discussing the weather, their faces were strained and their voices quavered upon mention of the name Georges.’
    • ‘His voice noticeably quavered as he recalled one of the most important moments in his career.’
    • ‘And McManus' voice, quavering, stretching and choking its way around the tunes, makes sure it always sounds very human.’
    tremble, quiver, shake, flutter, vibrate, pulsate, oscillate, fluctuate, waver, ripple, falter, trill, twitter, warble
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  • 1A shake or tremble in a person's voice.

    ‘it was impossible to hide the slight quaver in her voice’
    • ‘It's a mark of the return of confidence that no one said this with a quaver in their voice or a God-Willing shrug.’
    • ‘Strings swirl, melodies are caressed by her velvety vocal quaver, and the songs are simple in their expression of the feel-good sentiment.’
    • ‘Leo's trademark vocals are in full force, traversing the usual valleys of gut-wrenching falsetto and perfunctory quavers in resplendent multi-tracked glory.’
    • ‘His voice softens and opens up, threading a tremulous quaver through its easy melody.’
    • ‘Even in his younger days, the inimitable strength and fortitude in his voice was mixed with the occasional moment of weakness, the odd quaver and show of vulnerability.’
    • ‘‘We're best friends,’ I say, a little quaver in my voice.’
    • ‘‘This is the largest pristine wilderness in North America,’ Kennedy croaks in a froggy quaver.’
    • ‘Thomas' voice accepted the reference to his illness without a quaver, and he shrugged.’
    • ‘First, the wolf's cry held a quaver that said he was getting on in years.’
    • ‘She was a bit taken aback to hear the slight quaver in her father's voice as he replied.’
    • ‘Andrew Shore's Don Alfonso, in spite of a quaver in his voice, was expert and satisfying.’
    • ‘Lamontagne's voice is strong but with a quaver and a dry, rasping quality that hints at an inside breakability.’
    • ‘He had that same erudite quaver that suggested madness or brilliance and probably both.’
    • ‘The band's go-go dancers can't compete - she's a commanding guitarist, in high heels or not, and sings with Bowie's Katherine Hepburn quaver.’
    • ‘Following the massive second song, Hecker calms thing down with some shorter minimal sketches, but they have the same seasick quaver as what came before.’
    • ‘Putting a little quaver in my voice, I looked to Megan and said, ‘What's she saying, sweetheart?’’
    • ‘Her voice was low, near to a whisper so as to ensure that nobody would notice the quaver in her voice were they not looking for it.’
    • ‘‘I'm the king now,’ I explained, hoping no one else heard the quaver in my voice.’
    • ‘Brian's eyes were red and swollen, and his voice had a quaver.’
    • ‘Despite himself, a little quaver was in his voice.’
    trembling, shaking, shakiness, tremble, shake, quivering, quiver, twitching, twitch, convulsion, vibration, juddering, judder
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  • 2British Music
    A note having the time value of an eighth of a semibreve or half a crotchet, represented by a large dot with a hooked stem.

    Also called eighth note
    • ‘By the 19th century, however, a case of music type might have contained more than 400 separate parts; three joined quavers, for example, might demand 16 pieces of type.’
    • ‘Hopkins, an amateur composer, often described his theory in terms of musical notation, speaking of rests, crotchets, and quavers.’
    • ‘Tom is still performing, taking time each day to keep up with his dotted quavers and four beat notes.’
    • ‘Furthermore, a comparison of the way in which crotchets and quavers are notated makes it likely that the same scribe copied both works.’
    • ‘The famous opening of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto - like that of his Fifth Symphony a matter of repeated quavers - is an idea that derives from musical thought itself, and its working out during the course of the piece is the piece.’


Late Middle English (as a verb in the general sense ‘tremble’): from dialect quave ‘quake, tremble’, probably from an Old English word related to quake. The noun is first recorded (mid 16th century) as a musical term.