Definition of quaver in US English:



[no object]
  • (of a person's voice) shake or tremble in speaking, typically through nervousness or emotion.

    • ‘He came out, bowed down with sorrow, to settle on a bench, his voice quavering with a barely audible Yiddish lament.’
    • ‘His voice noticeably quavered as he recalled one of the most important moments in his career.’
    • ‘At least my voice wasn't quavering with every syllable.’
    • ‘Monty spins to attention, his head raised with great offense, his voice quavering with emotion - ‘Why did you say that?’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He was using his acting ability to sound confident and fearless, but I heard his voice quaver in spite of himself.’
    • ‘‘Sir,’ his voice quavered as he spoke, ‘they always look hungry to me.’’
    • ‘‘But in the photo I saw in the paper later, he was standing in the very front,’ she said, her voice quavering.’
    • ‘He was breathy, his voice quavered, he stumbled over words, he was stilted and uncomfortable.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I tried to make the question light, but I felt my voice quaver.’
    • ‘But her voice never even quavered, and that made me think she might actually make a decent public defender.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘Her voice quavers at the memories from inside but you get the sense she is far from beaten.’
    • ‘It might have just been the connection, but he thought he heard her voice quavering.’
    • ‘My brother's voice was quavering on the other end of the line.’
    • ‘And McManus' voice, quavering, stretching and choking its way around the tunes, makes sure it always sounds very human.’
    • ‘‘I couldn't stop in time,’ he explained, voice quavering.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.

    • ‘First, the wolf's cry held a quaver that said he was getting on in years.’
    • ‘Strings swirl, melodies are caressed by her velvety vocal quaver, and the songs are simple in their expression of the feel-good sentiment.’
    • ‘Lamontagne's voice is strong but with a quaver and a dry, rasping quality that hints at an inside breakability.’
    • ‘Putting a little quaver in my voice, I looked to Megan and said, ‘What's she saying, sweetheart?’’
    • ‘His voice softens and opens up, threading a tremulous quaver through its easy melody.’
    • ‘Andrew Shore's Don Alfonso, in spite of a quaver in his voice, was expert and satisfying.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thomas' voice accepted the reference to his illness without a quaver, and he shrugged.’
    • ‘Despite himself, a little quaver was in his voice.’
    • ‘‘I'm the king now,’ I explained, hoping no one else heard the quaver in my voice.’
    • ‘He had that same erudite quaver that suggested madness or brilliance and probably both.’
    • ‘‘We're best friends,’ I say, a little quaver in my 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘This is the largest pristine wilderness in North America,’ Kennedy croaks in a froggy quaver.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Leo's trademark vocals are in full force, traversing the usual valleys of gut-wrenching falsetto and perfunctory quavers in resplendent multi-tracked glory.’
    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 whole note or half a quarter note, represented by a large dot with a hooked stem.

    Also called eighth note
    • ‘Tom is still performing, taking time each day to keep up with his dotted quavers and four beat notes.’
    • ‘Hopkins, an amateur composer, often described his theory in terms of musical notation, speaking of rests, crotchets, and quavers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.