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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English bikeren (to attack), from Middle Dutch bicken (to stab, thrust, attack) +‎ -er (frequentative suffix), from Proto-Germanic *bikjaną (compare Old English becca (pickax), Dutch bikken (to hack), German picken (to peck, pick at), Old Norse bikkja (to plunge into water)), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeg- (to smash, break). Compare also German Low German bickern (to nibble, gnaw).


bicker (third-person singular simple present bickers, present participle bickering, simple past and past participle bickered)

  1. To quarrel in a tiresome, insulting manner.
    They bickered about dinner every evening.
    • a. 1678 (date written), Isaac Barrow, “(please specify the chapter name or sermon number). Of Industry in our particular Calling, as Scholars”, in The Works of Dr. Isaac Barrow. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to VII), London: A[braham] J[ohn] Valpy, [], published 1830–1831, →OCLC:
      petty things about which men cark and bicker
    • 2022 November 16, Paul Bigland, “From rural branches to high-speed arteries”, in RAIL, number 970, page 55:
      Travelling with their granny, who seems more interested in her crossword puzzle than them, they bicker and fight in a futile bid to get her attention. Oh, the joys of travelling during the school holidays!
  2. To brawl or move tremulously, quiver, shimmer (of a water stream, light, flame, etc.)
    • 1748, James Thomson, “Canto I”, in The Castle of Indolence: [], London: [] A[ndrew] Millar, [], →OCLC, stanza III, page 2:
      Mean time unnumber'd glittering Streamlets play'd, / And hurled every-where their Waters ſheen; / That, as they bicker'd through the ſunny Glade, / Though reſtleſs ſtill themſelves, a lulling Murmur made.
    • 1886, Tennyson, The Brook:
      I come from haunts of coot and hern, / I make a sudden sally, / And sparkle out among the fern, / To bicker down a valley.
  3. (of rain) To patter.
  4. To skirmish; to exchange blows; to fight.
Derived terms[edit]


bicker (plural bickers)

  1. A skirmish; an encounter.
  2. (Scotland, obsolete) A fight with stones between two parties of boys.
    • 1773, R. Ford, “Biographical Introduction”, in The Poetical Works of Robert Ferguson:
      Even if he did not take part in the fighting himself, he was no doubt familiar with those who had been taught, ass Darsie Latimer was by Alan Fairford, to "smoke a cobbler, spin a lozen, head a bicker, and hold the bannets" - in other words, to break a window, head a skirmish with stones, and hold the bonnet []
  3. A wrangle; also, a noise, as in angry contention.
  4. The process by which selective eating clubs at Princeton University choose new members.
    • 2005, Alison Fraser, Princeton University: Princeton, New Jersey, College Prowler, Inc, →ISBN, page 41:
      Bicker process varies by club, and there are often concerns of the rights of female students during bicker []

Etymology 2[edit]

From Scots bicker, from Middle English biker. Doublet of beaker.


bicker (plural bickers)

  1. (Scotland) A wooden drinking-cup or other dish.
    • 1824, James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Oxford, published 2010, page 6:
      …the liquors were handed around in great fulness, the ale in large wooden bickers, and the brandy in capacious horns of oxen.

Further reading[edit]