Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To sway as if about to fall.
  • intransitive v. To appear about to collapse: an empire that had begun to totter.
  • intransitive v. To walk unsteadily or feebly; stagger.
  • n. The act or condition of tottering.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. an unsteady movement or gait
  • n. A rag and bone man.
  • v. To walk,move or stand unsteadily or falteringly; threatening to fall.
  • v. To collect junk or scrap.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To shake so as to threaten a fall; to vacillate; to be unsteady; to stagger.
  • intransitive v. To shake; to reel; to lean; to waver.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To stand or walk unsteadily; walk with short vacillating or unsteady steps; be unsteady; stagger.
  • To shake, and threaten collapse; become disorganized or structurally weak and seem ready to fall; become unstable and ready to overbalance or give way.
  • To dangle at the end of a rope; swing on the gallows.
  • Synonyms and
  • Stagger, etc. See reel.
  • To tremble, rock.
  • To shake; impair the stability of; render shaky or unstable.
  • An obsolete or dialectal form of tatter.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. walk unsteadily
  • v. move without being stable, as if threatening to fall
  • v. move unsteadily, with a rocking motion

Etymologies

Middle English toteren, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English totren, toteren, from earlier *tolteren (compare English dialectal tolter ("to struggle, flounder"); Scots tolter ("unstable, wonky")), from Old English tealtrian ("to totter, vacillate"), from Proto-Germanic *taltrōnan, *taltōnan (“to sway, dangle, hesitate”), from Proto-Indo-European *del-, *dul- (“to shake, hesitate”). Cognate with Dutch touteren ("to tremble"), North Frisian talt, tolt ("unstable, shaky"). Related to tilt. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But the fact of the matter is, that the Democrats on this sort of teeter totter, that is politics, when the Democrats go up, Republicans go down and vice versa.

    CNN Transcript Mar 20, 2006

  • Sancie! he can just walk -- a kind of totter from my knees to Cuthbert's -- and then so proud of himself!

    Rest Harrow A Comedy of Resolution

  • The moment the sick man could "totter" out of his room, he found his way to her whom he had abjured, and who was in Paris calmly awaiting his return to her.

    A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)

  • I wanted to de-glamorize the classic fashion industry photos, where women totter in high heels wearing bright red lipstick... and everything is revealed apart from the genital triangle, the real heart of seduction.

    Shocking Nude Calendar Causes Controversy In Italy

  • We have been on this teeter-totter of hope and despair for both sides, but since there is not actually a single piece of legislation on the table -- my latest count was four different versions -- what we're seeing is that both sides are taking their positions and digging in.

    Digging In

  • "Tall as a pine tree," as the text insists, he has humour as well as pathos: his naked entry into the world is marked by a totter on splayed feet and, when he moves, it is with a forward-thrusting, angular, almost Hulotesque curiosity.

    Frankenstein - review

  • We have seen the proud and swaggering German, since our first being taken prisoner, gradually sway on his pinnacle, totter, and now fall to become the rabble of disillusioned soldiers that now present in the orbit of our vision.

    Work Camp 10196 L

  • Over the course of a dusty week I discovered an appreciation for beers with my name on them, learned that Baja Bill the owner of the camp makes a mean margarita and even managed to totter over the top of a few waves.

    Victoria Haschka: Why You Should Eat A Fish Taco Tonight

  • I can barely lift the bulging knapsack, and when I try to stand, I totter dangerously.

    FOOD ON THE TABLE • by Anitha Murthy

  • The water heats her from the inside; she is a bag of water on legs that totter tremble.

    A LITTLE BIT OF A GOOD THING • by elissa vann struth

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