From Middle English totren, toteren, from earlier *tolteren (compare dialectal English tolter (“to struggle, flounder”); Scots tolter (“unstable, wonky”)), from Old English tealtrian (“to totter, vacillate”), from Proto-Germanic *taltrōną, *taltōną (“to sway, dangle, hesitate”), from Proto-Indo-European *del-, *dul- (“to shake, hesitate”). Cognate with Dutch touteren (“to tremble”), Norwegian dialectal totra (“to quiver, shake”), North Frisian talt, tolt (“unstable, shaky”). Related to tilt.
- To walk, move or stand unsteadily or falteringly; threatening to fall.
- The baby tottered from the table to the chair.
- The old man tottered out of the pub into the street.
- The car tottered on the edge of the cliff.
- (figuratively) To be on the brink of collapse.
- 1610–1611, William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene ii], page 11:
- […] the folly of this Iland, they ſay there's but fiue vpon this Iſle ; we are three of them, if th' other two be brain'd like vs, the State totters.
- (archaic) To collect junk or scrap.
totter (plural totters)