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See also: Hover and høver



A hen hovering (verb sense 1.2) her chicks.
A type of hummingbird called a Mexican violetear (Colibri thalassinus) hovering (verb sense 2.1) while feeding on nectar from a flower.
When a cursor hovers (verb sense 2.4) over a hyperlink, a tooltip explaining the hyperlinked word appears.

The verb is derived from Middle English hoveren (to float in the air, hover; to stay),[1] probably from hoven (hover; of a bird: to fly high in the air, soar)[2] (which it displaced) + -er- (frequentative suffix).[3] Hoven is probably derived from Old English *hōfian, from hōfon, the plural past indicative form of hebban (to lift, raise), from Proto-West Germanic *habbjan, from Proto-Germanic *habjaną (to lift; to heave), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *keh₂p- (to hold, seize). The English word is analysable as hove ((obsolete) to remain suspended, float, hover; to linger, wait) +‎ -er (frequentative suffix).[4]

The noun is derived from the verb.[5]



hover (third-person singular simple present hovers, present participle hovering, simple past and past participle hovered)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To keep (something, such as an aircraft) in a stationary state in the air.
    2. Of a bird: to shelter (chicks) under its body and wings; (by extension) of a thing: to cover or surround (something).
    3. (obsolete) Of a bird or insect: to flap (its wings) so it can remain stationary in the air.
      • 1608, [Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas], “[Du Bartas His First VVeek, or Birth of the VVorld: [].] The Fift Daie of the First VVeek.”, in Josuah Sylvester, transl., Du Bartas His Deuine Weekes and Workes [], 3rd edition, London: [] Humfrey Lownes [and are to be sold by Arthur Iohnson []], published 1611, →OCLC, page 142:
        O'er the deer Corps ſomtimes her vvings ſhe [an eagle] hovers, / Somtimes the dead breſt vvith her breſt ſhe covers, []
      • 1686 (first performance), A[phra] Behn, The Luckey Chance, or An Alderman’s Bargain. A Comedy. [], London: [] R. H[olt], for W. Canning, [], published 1687, →OCLC, Act I, scene i, page 5:
        Thus have I lain conceal'd like a vvinter Fly, hoping for ſome bleſt Sun-Shine to vvarm me into Life again, and make me hover my flagging VVings; []
  2. (intransitive)
    1. To remain stationary or float in the air.
      The hummingbird hovered by the plant.
      • 1579, Stephen Gosson, “The Schoole of Abuse, []”, in The School of Abuse, Containing a Pleasant Invective against Poets, Pipers, Players, Jesters, &c. [], London: [] [Frederic Shoberl, Jun.] for the Shakespeare Society, published 1841, →OCLC, page 49:
        [T]hough you go to Theaters to see sport, Cupid may cache you ere you departe. The little god hovereth aboute you, and fanneth you with his wings to kindle fire: when you are set as fixed whites, Desire draweth his arrow to the head, and sticketh it uppe to the fethers, and Fancy bestireth him to shed his poyson through every vayne.
      • 1609, William Shakespeare, “A Louers Complaint”, in Shake-speares Sonnets. [], London: By G[eorge] Eld for T[homas] T[horpe] and are to be sold by William Aspley, →OCLC, signature L2, verso:
        Thus meerely vvith the garment of a grace, / The naked and concealed feind he couerd, / That th'vnexperient gaue the tempter place, / VVhich like a Cherubin aboue them houerd, / VVho young and ſimple vvould not be ſo louerd.
      • 1665, Robert Boyle, “Occasional Reflections. Reflection III. Killing a Crow (out of a Window) in a Hog’s-trough, and Immediately Tracing the Ensuing Reflection with a Pen Made of One of His Quills.”, in [John Weyland], editor, Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects. With a Discourse about Such Kind of Thoughts, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Alex[ander] Ambrose Masson; and sold by John Henry Parker, [], published 1848, →OCLC, section V, page 304:
        Long and patiently did I wait for this unlucky Crow, [] till at length having guzzl'd and croak'd enough, when by hovering over his beloved Dainties, he had rais'd himself high enough, to prompt me to fire at him, []
      • 1727, [Daniel Defoe], “Of such Tradesmen who by the Necessary Consequences of Their Business are Oblig’d to be Accessary to the Propagation of Vice, and the Encrease of the Wickedness of the Times, and that All the Immorality of the Age is Not Occasion’d by the Ale-houses and the Taverns”, in The Compleat English Tradesman. [], volume II, London: [] Charles Rivington [], →OCLC, part II, pages 163–163:
        [T]he Mercers encreaſing prodigiouſly vvent back into the City; there like Bees unhiv'd they hover about a vvhile, not knovving vvhere to fix; but at laſt, as if they vvould come back to the old Hive in Pater-noſter Rovv, but could not be admitted, the ſvvarm ſettled on Lu[d]gate-hill.
      • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “The Mast-head”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 176:
        Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever.
      • 1857, William Platt, “‘His Will Be Done!’”, in Mothers and Sons. A Story of Real Life. [], volume I, London: Charles J. Skeet, [], →OCLC, page 87:
        Thou hoveredst, like a guardian angel—healing in thy wings, and glad-tidings all around thee—over the poor lost-one.
      • 1877, William Black, “The Isobars”, in Green Pastures and Piccadilly. [], volume II, London: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC, page 150:
        Here are there were smaller craft—wherries, steam-launches, tenders, and what not; and they seemed like so many flies hovering on the surface of the water when they came near that majestic ship.
      • 1885, Robert Louis Stevenson, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, “Story of the Fair Cuban”, in More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., →OCLC, page 171:
        [] I found we were lying in a roadstead among many low and rocky islets, hovered about by an innumerable cloud of sea-fowl.
      • 2013 June 29, “Travels and travails”, in The Economist[1], volume 407, number 8842, London: Economist Group, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-10-18, page 55:
        Even without hovering drones, a lurking assassin, a thumping score and a denouement, the real-life story of Edward Snowden, a rogue spy on the run, could be straight out of the cinema. But, as with Hollywood, the subplots and exotic locations may distract from the real message: America's discomfort and its foes' glee.
        An adjective use.
    2. (figuratively)
      1. Sometimes followed by over: to hang around or linger in a place, especially in an uncertain manner.
        Synonym: wasp around
        His pen hovered above the paper.
        The strange man hovered outside the gents’ toilet.
        The visitors were hovering at the door, seemingly unwilling to enter.
        Some helicopter parents weren’t so much dropping off their kids as hovering over them until the event started.
        • c. 1599 (date written), I. M. [i.e., John Marston], The History of Antonio and Mellida. The First Part. [], London: [] [Richard Bradock] for Mathewe Lownes, and Thomas Fisher, [], published 1602, →OCLC, Act IV, signature F4, recto:
          Alas, this that you ſee, is not Antonio, / His ſpirit houers in Piero’s Court, / Hurling about his agill faculties, / To apprehend the ſight of Mellida: []
        • a. 1749, James Thomson, “Ode”, in [George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton], editor, The Works of James Thomson. [], volume II, London: [] A[ndrew] Millar, [], published 1750, →OCLC, stanza III, page 220:
          Oh! if thou hover'ſt round my vvalk, / VVhile, under ev'ry vvell-knovvn tree, / I to thy fancy'd ſhadovv talk, / And every tear is full of thee.
        • 1818, Martin Luther, “Of the Last Day of Judgment”, in Henry Bell, transl., edited by Joseph Kerby, The Familiar Discourses of Dr. Martin Luther, (the Great Reformer), which He Held with Various Learned Men at His Table, &c. on the Important Doctrines of Religion; [], new edition, Lewes, East Sussex: Sussex Press, [] John Baxter; London: Baldwin, Craddock, and Joy, [], →OCLC, page 408:
          [T]he fat swimmeth above, and the best thereof hovereth always uppermost; but the unclean matter, or the dregs is left at the bottom like a dead carcase and worthless thing. Even so likewise, God will deal at the day of judgment, therewith he will separate all things through fire, will separate the righteous from the ungodly, []
        • 1846, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “Epilogue to Part the Second”, in Lucretia: Or The Children of Night. [], volume III, London: Saunders and Otley, [], →OCLC, part II, pages 288–289:
          But often, when he felt the harshness of experience creep over him— [] the image of that fair child, [] hovered over him; and the very air grew warmer, as if with a living breath.
        • 1862 July – 1863 August, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], “Romola in Her Place”, in Romola. [], volume II, London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], published 1863, →OCLC, book III, page 275:
          Pestilence was hovering in the track of famine.
        • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Sea Chest”, in Treasure Island, London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, →OCLC, part I (The Old Buccaneer), page 28:
          The neighbourhood, to our ears, seemed haunted by approaching footsteps; and what between the dead body of the captain on the parlour floor, and the thought of that detestable blind beggar hovering near at hand, and ready to return, there were moments when, as the saying goes, I jumped in my skin for terror.
        • 2023 February 8, Sir Michael Holden, “Comment: Boom or bust: time to decide”, in RAIL, number 976, page 3:
          "Overall satisfaction with rail journey", as measured fortnightly by Transport Focus, has maintained a broadly flat line at around 85% across the last four months of travel disruption, while "satisfaction with punctuality/reliabilty" is hovering around 75%.
      2. To be indecisive or uncertain; to vacillate, to waver.
        Filling in the voting form, I hovered between Labour and Liberal Democrat.
        • 1596 (date written; published 1633), Edmund Spenser, A Vewe of the Present State of Irelande [], Dublin: [] Societie of Stationers, [], →OCLC; republished as A View of the State of Ireland [] (Ancient Irish Histories), Dublin: [] Society of Stationers, [] Hibernia Press, [] [b]y John Morrison, 1809, →OCLC, page 134:
          And the reason why the land-lord will no longer covenant with him [the husbandman], is, for that he dayly looketh after change and alteration, and hovereth in expectation of new worlds.
        • 1712 August 6 (Gregorian calendar), [Joseph Addison], “SATURDAY, July 26, 1712”, in The Spectator, number 441; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume V, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, →OCLC, page 175:
          When the soul is hovering in the last moments of its separation, [] what can support her under such tremblings of thought, such fear, such anxiety, such apprehensions, but the casting of all her cares upon Him who first gave her being, who has conducted her through one stage of it, and will be always with her in her progress through eternity?
          The spelling has been modernized.
        • 1872, William Black, “‘Prinz Eugen, der edle Ritter’”, in The Strange Adventures of a Phaeton. [], 2nd edition, volume I, London: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC, page 45:
          Arthur Ashburton was rather cold and distant towards her, and was obviously in a bad temper. He even hovered on the verge of rudeness towards both herself and the Lieutenant.
    3. (computing) Chiefly followed by over: to use a mouse or other device to place a cursor over something on a screen such as a hyperlink or icon without clicking, so as to produce a result (such as the appearance of a tooltip).
      A tooltip appears when you hover over this link.
    4. (nautical) To travel in a hovercraft as it moves above a water surface.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • Welsh: hofran



hover (plural hovers)

  1. An act, or the state, of remaining stationary in the air or some other place.
  2. A flock of birds fluttering in the air in one place.
  3. (figuratively) An act, or the state, of being suspended; a suspension.
  4. (chiefly Southern England) A cover; a protection; a shelter; specifically, an overhanging bank or stone under which fish can shelter; also, a shelter for hens brooding their eggs.
    • 1609, Richard Carew, “The Second Booke”, in The Survey of Cornwall. [], new edition, London: [] B. Law, []; Penzance, Cornwall: J. Hewett, published 1769, →OCLC, folio 105, verso:
      Oyſters grevv vpon boughs of trees (an Indian miracle) vvhich vvere caſt in [the pond] thither, to ſerue as a houer for the fiſh.
    • 1862 August – 1863 March, Charles Kingsley, chapter III, in The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby, London, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Macmillan and Co., published 1863, →OCLC, page 116:
      And now, down the rushing stream, [] past dark hovers under swirling banks, from which great trout rushed out on Tom, thinking him to be good to eat, and turned back sulkily, for the fairies sent them home again with a tremendous scolding, for daring to meddle with a water-baby; []
    • 1874, Charles Kingsley, “Superstition. A Lecture Delivered at the Royal Institution, London.”, in Health and Education, London: W. Isbister & Co. [], →OCLC, page 234:
      Without the instinct of self-preservation, which causes the sea-anemone to contract its tentacles, or the fish to dash into its hover, species would be extermined wholesale by involuntary suicide.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ họ̄veren, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ họ̄ven, v.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ -er-, suf.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ Compare “hover, v.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022; “hover, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ hover, n.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2022; “hover, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]

Norwegian Bokmål[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


hover m

  1. indefinite plural of hov



hover (third-person singular simple present hovers, present participle hoverin, simple past hovert, past participle hovert)

  1. to hover
  2. to pause (in hesitation)