Adventures in Etymology – Quiver

In this Adventure we investigate the origins of the word quiver.

Mongol Bow and Arrow Quiver

A quiver [ˈkwɪvə / ˈkwɪvɚ] is:

  • A portable case for holding arrows
  • A collection or store

To quiver means:

  • To shake with a slight, rapid, tremulous movement
  • To tremble, as from cold or strong emotion.

Quiver as an adjective means:

  • fast, speedy, rapid
  • energetic, vigourous, vibrant

The quiver for arrows comes from the Middle English quiver/whiver (a quiver, arrow case, case for a bow) from the Anglo-Norman quivre (a quiver), from the Old Dutch cocere/kokere (a quiver, case) from the Proto-West Germanic *kukur (container), possibly from Hunnic and/or ultimately from Proto-Mongolic *kökexür (leather vessel for liquids, snuff bottle) [source].

Words from the same Proto-Mongolic root include хөхүүр / ᠬᠥᠬᠦᠦᠷ [xoxur] (leather bag for holding liquid, wineskin, waterskin, snuffbox) in Mongolian, koker [ˈkoː.kər] (tube, cylinder, quiver) in Dutch, Köcher [ˈkœçɐ] (a quiver) in German, and kukkaro [ˈkukːɑro] (purse) in Finnish [source].

The verb to quiver and the adjective quiver (fast, energetic, vigourous) come from the Middle English quvier/cwiver (active, agile, lively, brisk, quick), from the Old English *cwifer, possibly related to cwic (alive. living, intelligent, keen), from which we get the modern English word quick [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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