Your hand might quiver. Your voice might quaver. Your arrows might sit at the ready, but what’s their location strapped to your back called again?
That’s right. The word “quiver” can be tricky because it means different things—many of which are ready to be a part of an action-packed story—but it doesn’t mean everything you might think it does.
One of the most common American typos in this area is to talk about someone’s “quivering voice.” Voices don’t quiver. They tremble sure, but “quiver” isn’t the correct word in this situation.
- “Quiver,” as a verb, means to tremble or shake, and it’s often related to fear or trepidation.
- “Quiver,” as a noun, is a reference to this tremble, or it can be a case for carrying arrows or sometimes even the collection of arrows themselves.
- “Quaver,” as a verb, means to trill or have a tremble or vibration in one’s voice. It’s not so far off from a warble.
“Quiver” vs. “quaver” – did you already know this difference?
This is another one of those “why, English language, why?” spelling differences, isn’t it? It starts getting a bit wild when you think about adjective and adverb forms of this words—”quivery” and “quiveringly” versus “quavery” and “quaveringly”—but they are all indeed distinct words.
“Quiver” is related to the Old English word cwiferlice (sound it out and you’ll see the connection), and this word meant “zealously.” But “quiver” has been used with its present definition, at least as a noun, since the 1300s. The verb form came to be in the 1400s. “Quaver” came to be as a verb also in the 1400s, from the Middle English word “quaven,” meaning to tremble. Its verb form came to be in the 1500s.
So is there a link between the two? It’s hard to argue definitively to the contrary, but they are two different words that have been around for a long time.
You might stumble over your language sometimes—spoken or written—but don’t let it produce a quaver in your voice or a quiver in your typing fingers.
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