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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), North Frisian talt, tolt (unstable, shaky). Related to tilt.



totter (plural totters)

  1. An unsteady movement or gait.
  2. (archaic) A rag and bone man.



totter (third-person singular simple present totters, present participle tottering, simple past and past participle tottered)

  1. 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.
    • 2014 April 21, “Subtle effects”, in The Economist, volume 411, number 8884:
      Manganism has been known about since the 19th century, when miners exposed to ores containing manganese, a silvery metal, began to totter, slur their speech and behave like someone inebriated.
  2. (archaic, intransitive) To collect junk or scrap.



Related terms[edit]