tremulous

adjective
trem·​u·​lous | \ˈtrem-yə-ləs \

Definition of tremulous 

1 : characterized by or affected with trembling or tremors

2 : affected with timidity : timorous

3 : such as is or might be caused by nervousness or shakiness a tremulous smile

4 : exceedingly sensitive : easily shaken or disordered

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Other Words from tremulous

tremulously adverb
tremulousness noun

Are You Shaky on The Meaning of tremulous?

Do you suspect that tremulous must be closely related to tremble? If so, you're right. Both of those words derive from the Latin verb tremere, which means "to tremble." Some other English offspring of tremere are tremor, tremendous, temblor (another word for earthquake), and tremolo (a term that describes a vibrating and quavering musical effect that was particularly popular for electric guitars and organs in the 1970s).

Examples of tremulous in a Sentence

She opened the letter with tremulous hands. He spoke with a tremulous voice. In the novel, which Richards populated with cardboard cutouts of the famous scientists who frequented the laboratory, Leone Allison’s husband, Charles Allison, the laboratory director (Garret Hobart) was portrayed as a weak-kneed, tremulous nerd who married a woman many times out of his league. As Leone (Manette) confesses in the book, her husband was aware of her infidelities, but there was nothing he could really do to stop her … —“Chapter 6” P. 124, TUXEDO PARK, Jennet Conant, Simon & Schuster © 2002 Whatever the number, Singleton should take heart in the cancellations. They reflect the most precious asset he acquired when he plunked down $200 million for the 142,467-daily-circulation Tribune: a readership with deep proprietary feelings about its local newspaper. If every paper could boast that kind of reader, the industry would not be in such a tremulous state. —"Editorials" P. 9, EDITOR & PUBLISHER Vol. 135 No. 29, August 12, 2002 On one occasion, it must be said, she set before me a tremulous bowl of hot, bitter, puddinglike tofu scooped from what looked like a Vermont maple syrup bucket, which is probably what fooled me into believing it might taste good. —"The Hungry I" P. 258, Alan Richman, GQ Vol. 68 No. 11, November 1998 And on the trunk of the tree he leaned against, a brown squirrel was clinging and watching him, and from behind a bush nearby a cock pheasant was delicately stretching his neck to peep out, and quite near him were two rabbits sitting up and sniffing with tremulous noses—and actually it appeared as if they were all drawing near to watch him and listen to the strange low little calls his pipe seemed to make. —“Chapter 10” P. 114, THE SECRET GARDEN, Frances Hodgson Burnett, HarperCollins Publishers (1911) 1998 As Arrietty snuggled down under the bedclothes she felt, creeping up from her toes, a glow of happiness like a glow of warmth. She heard their voices rising and falling in the next room: Homily’s went on and on, measured and confident—there was, Arrietty felt, a kind of conviction behind it; it was the winning voice. Once she heard Pod get up and the scrape of a chair. “I don’t like it!” she heard him say. And she heard Homily whisper “Hush!” and there were tremulous footfalls on the floor above and the sudden clash of pans. —“Chapter Six” P. 52, THE BORROWERS, Mary Norton, Harcourt Inc. (1953) 1998 Morning at Ocean Point: the shuffle of shoes on grass, the soft whir of a passing bicycle, the far-off clank of a bell buoy, the sea licking at the weedy shingle at low tide, the mingled distant mew of gulls. The moored boats look as though they were painted on the barely tremulous water. —“Great Drives” P. 87, Peter Garrison, CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER, September 1994 The eve of the deadline was upon me. Once more I sat in the somber gloom of my study, dread growing within my bosom. “Muse,” I whispered, my voice tremulous, “Come, Muse.” O, the suspense with which I waited for her appearance! —“Dream Within a Dream” P. 21, Tess Thompson, MERLYN’S PEN Vol. VIII No. 4, April/May 1993
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Recent Examples on the Web

On a recent Friday, the mood was tremulous, the air scented with cinnamon and enigma. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "Sleights of Hand With Cards, Coins and a Colander," 26 June 2018 When Mr Trump’s metals tariffs loomed, some tremulous Germans wanted the European Union to seek a deal with America that would cut duties on all industrial goods. The Economist, "Europe struggles to respond to Mr Trump," 14 June 2018 Immediately, refusing to buy his book, an act that had felt in the moment like solidarity with my real, true self — not this tremulous creature who had claimed possession of me in the bookstore — felt instead like the petulant act of a child. Lauren Markham, Longreads, "For Me, With Love and Squalor," 7 June 2018 Oscar Isaac’s intrepid fighter pilot Poe Dameron sets a jaunty tone in a quirkily virtual confrontation with Domhnall Gleeson’s Hux, a First Order general with a tremulous upper lip. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review: Action and Angst of Galactic Proportions," 12 Dec. 2017 Marina’s face maintains a tremulous neutrality throughout, struggling to contain the latent threat of violence, a calculated response that speaks to years of bitter experience. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critic's Notebook: Daniela Vega, a 'Fantastic Woman' Both Fragile and Fierce," 27 Nov. 2017 Those tremulous parents, too, are bound to think of fall as a time of new beginnings. Emily Richmond, The Atlantic, "Why Back-to-School Season Feels Like the New Year—Even for Adults," 17 Sep. 2017 Hall, who was twenty-three at the time, exquisitely conveyed the sometimes tremulous combination of knowingness and naïveté that characterizes Rosalind, Shakespeare’s most winning comic heroine. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "Rebecca Hall’s Complicated Inheritance," 3 June 2017 This is the way that many mainstream Beltway Republicans, and more than a few tremulous Democrats, pray the Trump White House will work. Maggie Haberman, Orange County Register, "How Reince Priebus has emerged as a potential tamer of Trump," 18 Jan. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tremulous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tremulous

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tremulous

Latin tremulus — more at tremble

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Dictionary Entries near tremulous

tremulant

tremulate

tremulation

tremulous

trench

trenchancy

trenchant

Statistics for tremulous

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Time Traveler for tremulous

The first known use of tremulous was in 1611

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More Definitions for tremulous

tremulous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of tremulous

: shaking slightly especially because of nervousness, weakness, or illness

: feeling or showing a lack of confidence or courage

tremulous

adjective
trem·​u·​lous | \ˈtre-myə-ləs \

Kids Definition of tremulous

1 : marked by trembling or shaking … quite near him were two rabbits sitting up and sniffing with tremulous noses …— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

tremulous

adjective
trem·​u·​lous | \ˈtrem-yə-ləs \

Medical Definition of tremulous 

: characterized by or affected with trembling or tremors

Other Words from tremulous

tremulousness noun

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