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From Middle English stageren, stakeren, from Old Norse stakra (to push, stagger)[1]. Cognate with dialectal Danish stagre.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈstæɡə/ 
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈstæɡɚ/
  • Rhymes: -æɡə(r)
  • (file)


stagger (plural staggers)

Tire stagger
  1. An unsteady movement of the body in walking or standing as if one were about to fall; a reeling motion
    • 7 October 2012, Paolo Bandini in The Guardian, Denver Broncos 21 New England Patriots 31 - as it happened
      Put down the rosary beads folks, I believe hell may just have frozen over. Peyton Manning drops back, sees nothing open and runs for a first down. If you can call that running. More like the stagger of a wounded rhino. Did the job, though
    • 1861, Ellen Wood, East Lynne Chapter 39
      Afy slowly gathered in the sense of the words. She gasped twice, as if her breath had gone, and then, with a stagger and a shiver, fell heavily to the ground.
    the stagger of a drunken man
    • 1843, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol Stave 2
      And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire; both hands to your partner, bow and courtesy, corkscrew, thread the needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig "cut"—cut so deftly that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.
  2. (veterinary medicine) A disease of horses and other animals, attended by reeling, unsteady gait or sudden falling
    parasitic staggers
    apoplectic or sleepy staggers
  3. Bewilderment; perplexity.
  4. The spacing out of various actions over time.
  5. (motor racing) The difference in circumference between the left and right tires on a racing vehicle. It is used on oval tracks to make the car turn better in the corners.[2]
  6. (aviation) The horizontal positioning of a biplane, triplane, or multiplane's wings in relation to one another.



stagger (third-person singular simple present staggers, present participle staggering, simple past and past participle staggered)

  1. Sway unsteadily, reel, or totter.
    1. (intransitive) In standing or walking, to sway from one side to the other as if about to fall; to stand or walk unsteadily; to reel or totter.
      She began to stagger across the room.
      • 1697, “Palamon and Arcite”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 403869432:
        Deep was the wound; he staggered with the blow.
    2. (transitive) To cause to reel or totter.
      The powerful blow of his opponent's fist staggered the boxer.
    3. (intransitive) To cease to stand firm; to begin to give way; to fail.
      • 1708, Joseph Addison, The Present State of the War, and the Necessity of an Augmentation
        The enemy staggers.
  2. Doubt, waver, be shocked.
    1. (intransitive) To begin to doubt and waver in purposes; to become less confident or determined; to hesitate.
    2. (transitive) To cause to doubt and waver; to make to hesitate; to make less steady or confident; to shock.
      He will stagger the committee when he presents his report.
      • 1640, James Howell, England's Teares for the present Warres
        whosoever will be curious to read the future story of this intricate war , if it be possible to compile a story of it , he will find himself much staggered.
      • 1796, Edmund Burke, a letter to a noble lord
        Grants to the house of Russell were so enormous, as not only to outrage economy, but even to stagger credibility.
  3. (transitive) Have multiple groups doing the same thing in a uniform fashion, but starting at different, evenly-spaced, times or places (attested from 1856[3]).
    1. To arrange (a series of parts) on each side of a median line alternately, as the spokes of a wheel or the rivets of a boiler seam.
    2. To arrange similar objects such that each is ahead or above and to one side of the next.
      We will stagger the starting positions for the race on the oval track.
    3. To schedule in intervals.
      We will stagger the run so the faster runners can go first, then the joggers.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper, “stagger”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.
  2. ^ Stock Car Racing magazine article on stagger, February 2009
  3. ^ Douglas Harper, “stagger”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2021.