• Arghhhhhhhhhh Matey! I found 3 sources for this, none are particularly definitive. Here goes anyhow :) From: Timber is a curving frame branching outward from the keel of a ship and bending upward in a vertical direction that is usually composed of several pieces united. And...shiver is 2 : to tremble in the wind as it strikes first one and then the other side (of a sail) transitive senses : to cause (a sail) to shiver by steering close to the wind. (Merriam-Webster online). Shiver me/my timber.I can't find any authority to agree, but I thought that this was another saying derived from sailing ships. It certainly seems firmly attached to pirates. I think the saying represents the shock of a large wave hitting a wooden ship broadside and causing the hull to shudder. In other words, it expresses shock or surprise. Shiver My Timbers! ... (expletive denoting surprise or disbelief) Presumably, this expression alludes to a ship's striking a rock or shoal so hard that her timbers shiver. The expression was first seen in 1834 in the novel _Jacob Faithfully_ by Frederick Marryat. In 1881, Robert Louis Stevenson found it to be the perfect exclamation for the irascible Long John Silver: "So! Shiver me timbers, here's Jim Hawkins!" This stereotypical expletive became extremely popular with writers of sea yarns and Hollywood swashbucklers. From _When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech_ (1996) by Olivia A. Isil Next. . . From [Q] From Tad Spencer: “Please could you tell me where the phrase shiver my timbers originated?” [A] This is one of those supposedly nautical expressions that seem to be better known through a couple of appearances in fiction than by any actual sailors’ usage. It’s an exclamation that may allude to a ship striking some rock or other obstacle so hard that her timbers shiver, or shake, so implying a calamity has occurred. It is first recorded as being used by Captain Frederick Marryat in Jacob Faithful in 1835: “I won’t thrash you Tom. Shiver my timbers if I do”. It has gained a firm place in the language because almost fifty years later Robert Louis Stevenson found it to be just the kind of old-salt saying that fitted the character of Long John Silver in Treasure Island: “Cross me, and you’ll go where many a good man’s gone before you ... some to the yard-arm, shiver my timbers, and some by the board, and all to feed the fishes”. Since then, it’s mainly been the preserve of second-rate seafaring yarns. Next From Do you have any idea what the phrase shiver me timbers refers to? It's a mock oath ascribed to sailors, though it appears to be a comic embellishment of a slightly different oath, my timbers. The latter dates from the late 18th century, while shiver me/my timbers is first recorded in 1835: "I won't thrash you Tom. Shiver my timbers if I do" from Frederick Marryat's Jacob Faithful. Apparently Mr. Marryat invented the phrase with an eye toward avoiding his readers taking offense at stronger words. It's also possible that my timbers was invented, for it first appears in a song: "My timbers! what lingo he’d coil and belay." A shiver, is literally "a splinter". Hence, when timbers are shivered, they are broken into splinters. A curiously similar word is shake, a fissure that forms in wood while it is still growing. The phrase shiver my timbers was purportedly adopted later by cricket to refer to the scattering of wickets.
  • Shiver is splinters of wood and timbers is what pirates made their boats out of so shiver me timbers was kind of like destroying the wood on their boats....i am not positive where it originated though...sorry
  • According to the History channel, the word "shiver" was a large splinter of wood -- usually created by a cannonball shattering the timbers of the ship. Thus, when the captain said, "shiver me timbers" he was, according to the channel, he was saying "splinter the timbers" of the other ship.
  • The term "shiver me timbers" was derived from cannonball warfare. When a cannon ball struck the side of a wooden vessel, "shivers" a common term for splinters, were dislodged as projectiles from the timbers of the hull. These “shivers” were the primary cause of injury and death from this sort of warfare.
  • All the "experts" should pay attention to the nonsense they spout. "Shiver me timbers" does not refer to sails or comedy. The word "shiver" has a definition of splitting or splintering things (Thus the prison term of "shivs" for home made weapons as they are made from "splinters" of objects found in the prison). When cannon balls or other weaponry tore into the decks or masts of ships, the wood would splinter or "shiv", short for shiver in this context. Shivering one's timbers-"shiver me timbers" was a reference to this destruction (They're shivering our timbers-i.e. we are under attack). It may then logically be transposed as a slang term/expletive when the individual feels they have been surprised by an incident or a response from someone(sneak attack) or shivering (splintering) someone's dreams, notions, fantasies beliefs or surprising them with a response or knowledge they did not previously possess.
  • Funny, I always thought it meant "Well, break my legs!" The word "shever" in Hebrew means "break" and something made me think that "me timbers" was slang for "my legs," at least partly because loss of a leg was all too common in sea battles.
  • I answered this as a comment...however, As a treasure hunter of Spanish Galleons and such on the E coast, I know...or thought I did, of most pirate slang. Yours is a very unorthodox...[and invaluable] view! I like it! Although I believe that when a storm was severe...and under stress of the storm, the 'timbers' of the boat "sounded" as if they would snap...causing the crew to be 'un-nerved'... I believe this was the expression they gave in an un-nerving circumstance.
  • It was first spoken by a wooden legged pirate LJS i think!
  • Shiver my timbers (sometimes pronounced "shiver me timbers") is an exclamation in the form of a mock oath usually attributed to the speech of pirates in works of fiction. It is employed as a literary device by authors to express shock, surprise or annoyance. The phrase is based on real nautical slang and is a reference to the timbers, which are the wooden support frames of a sailing ship. In heavy seas, ships would be lifted up and pounded down so hard as to "shiver" the timbers, startling the sailors. Such an exclamation was meant to convey a feeling of fear and awe, similar to, "Well Blow Me Down!", or, "May God Strike Me Dead". Shiver is also reminiscent of the splintering of a ship's timbers in battle - splinter wounds were a common form of battle injury on wooden ships ('shiver' means splinter in some English dialects). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the expression "shiver my timbers" probably first appeared in a published work by Frederick Marryat called Jacob Faithful (1834). After an argument over grog, Tom's father has his wooden leg [a wooden leg was occasionally called a timber in slang] trapped between some bricks and is unable to move. Tom agrees to assist him on the condition he will not get a beating. "I won’t thrash you, Tom. Shiver my timbers if I do." "They're in a fair way of being shivered as it is, I think. Now, father, we're both even." The expression is a derivative of actual 18th century nautical slang, when the phrase "timbers!" or "my timbers!" meant an exclamation (cf. "my goodness!") as can be seen in Poor Jack, a song from 1789 by Charles Dibdin. The opening phrase shiver my... also predates Jacob Faithful with the following lines from John O'Keeffe's 1791 comic play Wild Oats an earlier example: Harry: I say it's false. John : False! Shiver my hulk, Mr. Buckskin, if you wore a lion's skin I'd curry you for this. "Shiver my timbers" was most famously popularized by the archetypal pirate Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883). Silver used the phrase seven times, as well as variations such as "shiver my sides", "shiver my soul" and "shake up your timbers".
  • I think it was first uttered onboard Noah's arc during mating season, you know all those large animals! If the arcs a rockin' don't come a knockin'
  • An expression of surprise or strong emotion. Shorten sail - to reduce the amount of sail hanging from the yards
  • Avast!! ya lubbers< You're all daft. You should skuttle the turnbuckles and abandon ship. I sez.
  • In the New York Times crossword (#1128) the answer for "cry on a corsair" (a pirate ship) was "shiver me timbers". This jibes with the other explanations on this site.
  • All of the previous answers are partly correct. "Me Timbers" came to be an expression used by older sailors to refer to their 'bones'... i.e. their old limbs- their "timbers'. "Me Timbers are aching". So, "Shiver me Timbers" came to express, when said by an older sailor, astonishment at having seen something new and unexpected... something that they had not seen or experienced during all of their years.
  • shiver me timbers actually means "break the boat" or "shock" or "sudden surprise," as the wooden masts or timbers of a ship would quake when the ship was hit by a cannonball, or if the ship suddenly ran aground or hit an unsuspecting object. BUT, as for the second part of your question, I really can't help you, except by giving you this info that I found: leading authorities on these phrases cannot find a truly definitive answer about how the phrase originated. Robert Louis Stevenson, however, DID make it famous, but it was most likely around long before he used it in "Treasure Island."

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