- to rock or shake as if about to fall; be unsteady
- to be on the point of failure or collapse
- to proceed with feeble, unsure steps
Origin of totterMiddle English toteren, probably ; from Scand, as in Norwegian dialect, dialectal totra, to quiver, shake
intransitive verbtot·tered, tot·ter·ing, tot·ters
- a. To sway as if about to fall.b. To appear about to collapse: an empire that had begun to totter.
- To walk unsteadily or feebly; stagger. See Synonyms at blunder.
Origin of totterMiddle English toteren, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.
(third-person singular simple present totters, present participle tottering, simple past and past participle tottered)
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 *taltrÅnÄ…, *taltÅnÄ… (“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.