Etymology 1Edit

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. 1677, Isaac Barrow, Of Industry in our particular Calling, as Scholars (sermon)
      petty things about which men cark and bicker
  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 54163524, 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, The Brook, by Tennyson
      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.
    • 1606, Philemon Holland, The Historie of Twelve Caesars
      Two egles had a conflict, and bickered together.
Derived termsEdit


bicker (plural bickers)

  1. A skirmish; an encounter.
  2. (Scotland, obsolete) A fight with stones between two parties of boys.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Jamieson to this entry?)
  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 2Edit

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 2010, p. 6:
      …the liquors were handed around in great fulness, the ale in large wooden bickers, and the brandy in capacious horns of oxen.

Further readingEdit