I put only four words in the title, but I know there are more. Right now I remember jerking. I know the difference between shaking and vibration. But I don't have any idea about the usage of others. It seems their meaning is almost the same but their usage is different. I heard tremor a few times when someone described a earthquake.

So could anyone explain the difference with examples?

4 Answers 4


They paused as they felt the slight tremor and just had time to glance at each other before the room shook so violently that he lost his balance and furniture started to fall. It was over as quickly as it had started. She was huddled on the floor trembling with fear. "Are you ok" he asked, "Try to calm down and I'll get you a drink." As he took the orange juice bottle from the upended refrigerator an started to pour, he laughed. "It says 'shake well before using' but somehow I don't think I'll need to today." He shivered as he realized just how close they had come to being under that 'fridge. Better not mention that right now.

  • 1
    Very nice illustration. One observation: I think the "trembling with fear" could also be "shaking with fear", especially if the amplitude of the movement is larger. Apr 19, 2012 at 9:44

The short answer is that shake is the generic term for short movements up and down or to and fro. Shiver is the kind of shaking you do when you are cold; and tremble is the kind of shaking you do when you are afraid or anxious about something

Tremor is a noun and usually refers to the shaking of the earth during an earthquake or the shaking of the body during sickness.

  • Tremor could be an involuntary rhythmic movement of hands, so it is not always because of a sickness. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tremor
    – Bravo
    Apr 19, 2012 at 7:27
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    I'd say if your hand is moving involuntarily, you are probably sick.
    – Anthony
    Apr 19, 2012 at 7:33
  • Oh no, where is the doc! But come on, I do not think anyone can hold up a hand without any hint of a shiver.
    – Bravo
    Apr 19, 2012 at 7:55
  • That I will agree with, but only because I've become uncomfortably aware of that personally in the past few months. But that's a tremble more than a tremor, I'd say.
    – Anthony
    Apr 19, 2012 at 8:14
  • Temblor is another useful earthquake word. Apr 19, 2012 at 15:38

You left out rattle and roll.

Here is my take on their distinctions:

shake - First, its a verb. I can be doen to someone or done to oneself. It generally is a willed act, even if it's not a welcome one (meaning some agent is involved).

tremor - A noun, usually describing a subtle but steady "shaking", usually involuntary, often pathological (meaning a symptom of something).

shiver - Very similar to tremor but less acute (usually the whole body or at least a good half shivers). Still involuntary, though there can be an identifiable cause (cold weather, fear, bad thoughts). Usually goes away either as fast as it came on, or if due to strong source, when that source is gone.

tremble - Could be the same as a shiver or a tremor, but if it's distinct, usually describes a shaking or unsteadiness caused by lack of power. You could be trembling when you stand up due to muscle weakness, or you could be trembling at the feet of a king because you are weak with humility, etc.

Overall, the finer points of the words are going to be cause, locality (part of the body) voluntariness, duration, and severity.


In vibration, each wave is having a predictable correlation with the next wave. In a tremor, this is not a binding condition. The wave following the current wave may be larger, smaller, of different shape, amplitude or frequency. The movement is generally oscillatory in vibration but may be chaotic in a tremor.

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