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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
  • Meerkat pups start to play as soon as they can totter about the burrow.
  • The ants totter around until a bird picks them off, continuing the cycle.
  • One broke an arm falling off a bed, the other broke his on a teeter totter.
  • How easily, he reminds readers, stable-looking societies can totter.
  • He could no longer walk, but could sit erect and totter feebly for a few feet.
  • Food is so-so, but the tree-shaded tables are great for watching bottle blondes totter up and downhill in their high heels.
  • The two terrain parks offer beginner and advanced lines, rails and boxes, a teeter totter and jumps.
  • The wipers totter up to a due-north position, then fall back, exhausted.
  • It's a way of turning a possible gangplank into a teeter-totter.
  • Think of two kids on each end of a teeter totter balanced on a fulcrum.
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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