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

  • n. A chain or shackle for the ankles or feet.
  • n. Something that serves to restrict; a restraint.
  • transitive v. To put fetters on; shackle.
  • transitive v. To restrict the freedom of. See Synonyms at hamper1.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A chain or similar object used to bind a person or animal - often by its legs (usually in plural).
  • n. Anything that restricts or restrains in any way.
  • v. To shackle or bind up with fetters
  • v. To restrain or impede; to hamper.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A chain or shackle for the feet; a chain by which an animal is confined by the foot, either made fast or disabled from free and rapid motion; a bond; a shackle.
  • n. Anything that confines or restrains; a restraint.
  • transitive v. To put fetters upon; to shackle or confine the feet of with a chain; to bind.
  • transitive v. To restrain from motion; to impose restraints on; to confine; to enchain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To put fetters upon; shackle or confine, as with fetters; hence, to bind; confine; restrain.
  • n. A chain or bar by which a person or an animal is confined by the foot, so that he is either made fast to an object or deprived of free motion by having one foot attached to the other; a shackle.
  • n. Anything that confines or restrains from motion; a restraint; a check.
  • n. Synonyms Gyve, Manacle, etc. See shackle, n.

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

  • v. restrain with fetters
  • n. a shackle for the ankles or feet


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

Middle English feter, from Old English; see ped- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English feter.


  • They are as stanch and resolved in their hatred of the domestic institution as when we abolished the accursed slave traffic; as when, at a vast sacrifice, both of money and of colonial prosperity, we struck the last fetter from the last English slave; as when the women of England, half a million strong, sent out a generous if not a wise remonstrance to the women of America.

    London: Saturday, January 17, 1863

  • Thursday (called in French Jeudi gras and in German fetter Donnerstag

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 13: Revelation-Stock

  • It never will save a man from sin; never break a fetter, or dash away a wine-cup.

    The Harvest of Years

  • Wise people do not call that a strong fetter which is made of iron, wood, or hemp; far stronger is the care for precious stones and rings, for sons and a wife.

    The Dhammapada

  • Shyness hitherto had been no infirmity of this young Canadian; but Bertie somehow had mesmerized her into a state of consciousness -- it was a cobwebby kind of fetter, but the first she had worn.

    Bluebell A Novel

  • If you propose to become a tyrant over him, ... do your best to poison him with a theory of morals against nature; impose every kind of fetter on him; embarrass his movements with a thousand obstacles; place phantoms around him to frighten him ....

    The Ancient Regime

  • Capitalist property, private property in the means of production, the profit system itself, had become a "fetter" on the further development of the productive forces.

    Workers World news online

  • "fetter" on the technological means of production, a fetter that is ready to be burst asunder.

    Warren Ellis

  • For those who perceive the latter, the novel's bleak horror will leave a bruise on the mind, a fetter on the heart.

    Rereading: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

  • It laid a fetter on our souls, the need for love and yet the difficulty of its expression.

    Rachel Cusk | Portraits


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  • "...O to grace how great a debtor

    Daily I'm constrained to be!

    Let thy goodness, like a fetter

    Bind my wandering heart to thee

    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it

    Prone to leave the God I love;

    Here's my heart, O take and seal it

    Seal it for thy courts above..."

    January 10, 2018

  • I really like Adam Gopnik's review of two new Samuel Johnson books in the New Yorker. The piece is called "Man of Fetters: Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale." (12/8/08)

    December 2, 2008