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See also: Falter


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English falteren (to stagger), further origin unknown. Possibly from a North Germanic source[1] such as Old Norse faltrask (be encumbered). May also be a frequentative of fold, although the change from d to t is unusual.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈfɔːltə(r)/, /ˈfɒltə(r)/
    • (file)


falter (plural falters)

  1. An unsteadiness.
    • 2009, Ruth Cigman, ‎Andrew Davis, New Philosophies of Learning (page 200)
      Tom, who isn't paying much attention, is suddenly caught by the falter in his voice as he reads the two lines—



falter (third-person singular simple present falters, present participle faltering, simple past and past participle faltered)

  1. To waver or be unsteady; to weaken or trail off.
    • 1672, Richard Wiseman, A Treatise of Wounds
      He found his legs falter.
    • 2018, James Lambert, “A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity”, in English World-Wide[1], page 18:
      Considering the results of the study, today John may be buoyed at the clear trend of increasing numbers of new “lishes” for each successive decade since the 1950s, and the fact that nothing in the data suggests this trend is likely to falter.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To stammer; to utter with hesitation, or in a weak and trembling manner.
  3. To fail in distinctness or regularity of exercise; said of the mind or of thought.
    • 1832, [Isaac Taylor], Saturday Evening. [], London: Holdsworth and Ball, OCLC 2619891:
      Here indeed the power of distinctly conceiving of space and distance falters.
  4. To stumble.
  5. (figuratively) To lose faith or vigor; to doubt or abandon (a cause).
  6. To hesitate in purpose or action.
  7. To cleanse or sift, as barley.
    • 1707, J[ohn] Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry; or, The Way of Managing and Improving of Land. [], 2nd edition, London: [] J[ohn] H[umphreys] for H[enry] Mortlock [], and J[onathan] Robinson [], published 1708, OCLC 13320837:
      Barley [] clean falter'd from Hairs



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “falter”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.