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[tot-er] /ˈtɒt ər/
verb (used without object)
to walk or go with faltering steps, as if from extreme weakness.
to sway or rock on the base or ground, as if about to fall:
The tower seemed to totter in the wind. The government was tottering.
to shake or tremble:
a load that tottered.
the act of tottering; an unsteady movement or gait.
Origin of totter
1150-1200; Middle English toteren to swing < ?
Related forms
totterer, noun
1. See stagger. 2. waver. 3. oscillate, quiver. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for totter
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The moment this fact is realised and non-co-operation is effected, this Government must totter to pieces.

    Freedom's Battle Mahatma Gandhi
  • "He air gone," she said chokingly, coming forward with a totter.

    Tess of the Storm Country Grace Miller White
  • Then I put the third down the trap-door, which stood open, just as the door began to totter inwards.

    Sir Ludar Talbot Baines Reed
  • Now he could totter off with a light heart and get a bite of lunch.

    Jill the Reckless P. G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse
  • Suddenly I see Fritz, pale as death, wet through, totter up the path from the lake.

    The Chink in the Armour Marie Belloc Lowndes
  • The pillars of state of English orthography at least seemed destined to totter.

    Emmy Lou George Madden Martin
  • No need for him to do anything except give them their initial velocity and let them tumble into one another and totter or fall.

    The Fighting Chance Robert W. Chambers
  • But it is important that it should not only totter in the external but also in the internal man.

    The Aesthetical Essays Friedrich Schiller
British Dictionary definitions for totter


verb (intransitive)
to walk or move in an unsteady manner, as from old age
to sway or shake as if about to fall
to be failing, unstable, or precarious
the act or an instance of tottering
Derived Forms
totterer, noun
tottering, adjective
totteringly, adverb
tottery, adjective
Word Origin
C12: perhaps from Old English tealtrian to waver, and Middle Dutch touteren to stagger
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for totter

c.1200, "swing to and fro," perhaps from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Norwegian totra "to quiver, shake"). Meaning "stand or walk with shaky, unsteady steps" is from c.1600. Related: Tottered; tottering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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