Shudder or Shutter – What’s the Difference?

If you have ever wondered whether an old house shudders or shutters in the wind, you aren’t alone. Shutter and shudder are homophones, and it isn’t always easy to tell them apart in sentences. Homophones are words that sound alike but mean different things.

Shudder and shutter can each be a verb or a noun, depending on context, but they can never be interchanged. Continue reading to learn more about these two words.

What is the Difference Between Shudder and Shutter?

In this post, I will compare shutter vs. shudder. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see them in context. Plus, I will use a mnemonic device that will help you choose either shutter or shudder for your own writing.

When to Use Shudder

shudder versus shutterWhat does shudder mean? Shudder is a verb and a noun.

As a verb, to shudder is to shake. A person might shudder in fear at the thought of meeting a ghost, or an old building might shudder during a storm.

Here are a few more examples,

  • I shudder to think what would happen if Anthony became king.
  • Arthur shudders each time he hears someone cutting iron on the bandsaw.
  • But the 4-3 loss that ended the season fits into what is becoming a deeper Nationals history. Feel free to shudder. –The Washington Post

Shudder is a regular verb, so it follows the basic rules of English verb conjugation.

Conjugation of Shudder:

  • I/we shudder: first person singular/plural present
  • You shudder: second person singular/plural present
  • He/she/it shudders: third person singular present
  • They shudder: third person plural present
  • Shuddering: present participle
  • Shuddered: simple past

As a noun, a shudder is an involuntary shake, like one does when one is startled.

When to Use Shutter

definition of shudder definition of shutter definitionWhat does shutter mean? Shutter can also be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, shutter refers either to a type of window covering or the mechanism on a camera that exposes the sensor to light.

For example,

  • Ken adjusted the speed of the shutter to achieve a running-water effect in his pictures of the waterfall.
  • Kayla closed the shutters on her window so that the neighbors could not watch her while she changed clothes.

Shutter can also be a verb, where it means to close something. Usually it refers to shutters on a window, but by extension, it has also come to mean closing a store.

For example,

  • The grocery store megachain shuttered 130 locations last year in an attempt to streamline business operations.
  • Rene shuttered the windows of his bungalow to keep the sunlight out while he slept.
  • Richard Perry will shutter his hedge-fund firm after billions of dollars in investment losses and client defections. –The Wall Street Journal

Trick to Remember the Difference

define shudder define shutterNow that we have gone over the basics meanings of these two words, let’s go over a trick to remember shudder vs. shutter.

  • Shudder refers to shaking, both as a noun and a verb.
  • Shutter refers to closing something, whether the coverings of a window or a part of a camera.

Since shutter contains the word shut, and that is basically the meaning of the verb shutter, remembering when to use shutter is fairly simple.


Is it shudder or shutter? Both shudder and shutter can be a noun and a verb.

  • Shudder means to shake as a verb, and an involuntary shake as a noun.
  • Shutter means a window covering or part of a camera as a noun, and to close something as a verb.