Definition of quaver in English:



  • (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’
    • ‘‘Sir,’ his voice quavered as he spoke, ‘they always look hungry to me.’’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘My brother's voice was quavering on the other end of the line.’
    • ‘But her voice never even quavered, and that made me think she might actually make a decent public defender.’
    • ‘Monty spins to attention, his head raised with great offense, his voice quavering with emotion - ‘Why did you say that?’’
    • ‘He came out, bowed down with sorrow, to settle on a bench, his voice quavering with a barely audible Yiddish lament.’
    • ‘I tried to make the question light, but I felt my voice quaver.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘But in the photo I saw in the paper later, he was standing in the very front,’ she said, her voice quavering.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He was breathy, his voice quavered, he stumbled over words, he was stilted and uncomfortable.’
    • ‘It might have just been the connection, but he thought he heard her voice quavering.’
    • ‘He was using his acting ability to sound confident and fearless, but I heard his voice quaver in spite of himself.’
    • ‘At least my voice wasn't quavering with every syllable.’
    • ‘‘I couldn't stop in time,’ he explained, voice quavering.’
    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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thomas' voice accepted the reference to his illness without a quaver, and he shrugged.’
    • ‘Despite himself, a little quaver was in his voice.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘We're best friends,’ I say, a little quaver in my voice.’
    • ‘Putting a little quaver in my voice, I looked to Megan and said, ‘What's she saying, sweetheart?’’
    • ‘Leo's trademark vocals are in full force, traversing the usual valleys of gut-wrenching falsetto and perfunctory quavers in resplendent multi-tracked glory.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘First, the wolf's cry held a quaver that said he was getting on in years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Strings swirl, melodies are caressed by her velvety vocal quaver, and the songs are simple in their expression of the feel-good sentiment.’
    • ‘Andrew Shore's Don Alfonso, in spite of a quaver in his voice, was expert and satisfying.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘This is the largest pristine wilderness in North America,’ Kennedy croaks in a froggy quaver.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Brian's eyes were red and swollen, and his voice had a quaver.’
    • ‘She was a bit taken aback to hear the slight quaver in her father's voice as he replied.’
    • ‘His voice softens and opens up, threading a tremulous quaver through its easy melody.’
    • ‘‘I'm the king now,’ I explained, hoping no one else heard the quaver in my 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
    • ‘Hopkins, an amateur composer, often described his theory in terms of musical notation, speaking of rests, crotchets, and quavers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


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.