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[fet-er] /ˈfɛt ər/
a chain or shackle placed on the feet.
Usually, fetters. anything that confines or restrains:
Boredom puts fetters upon the imagination.
verb (used with object)
to put fetters upon.
to confine; restrain.
Origin of fetter
before 900; Middle English, Old English feter; cognate with Old High German fezzera, Old Norse fjǫturr; akin to foot
Related forms
fetterer, noun
fetterless, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fetter
Historical Examples
  • Briefly, I sketched the Chief's report, fetter nodding every few words.

    Priestess of the Flame Sewell Peaslee Wright
  • Marriage is no fetter about a man or woman, binding both to that which they may get to hate.

    The Soul of a People H. Fielding
  • Each engagement, even a temporary one, was felt as a fetter by Erasmus.

  • It is a bauble meant to gratify her: why make it a fetter, be it ever so light a one?

    Molly Bawn Margaret Wolfe Hamilton
  • The groan of breaking hearts is there—The falling lash—the fetter's clank!

    The Liberty Minstrel George W. Clark
  • Froude and I were nobodies; with no characters to lose, and no antecedents to fetter us.

    Apologia Pro Vita Sua John Henry Cardinal Newman
  • No longer was the fetter Lane Society a calm abode of peace.

  • It consisted of seventy-two members of the fetter Lane Society.

  • To yield to it, is to fetter our life with self-imposed and fantastic chains.

    Joyous Gard Arthur Christopher Benson
  • The entente cordiale is simply a fetter and a dead weight upon you.

    Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo E. Phillips Oppenheim
British Dictionary definitions for fetter


(often pl) a chain or bond fastened round the ankle; shackle
(usually pl) a check or restraint: in fetters
verb (transitive)
to restrict or confine
to bind in fetters
Derived Forms
fetterer, noun
fetterless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English fetor; related to Old Norse fjöturr fetter, Old High German fezzera, Latin pedica fetter, impedīre to hinder
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fetter

Old English fetor "chain or shackle for the feet," from Proto-Germanic *fetero (cf. Old Saxon feteros (plural), Middle Dutch veter "fetter," in modern Dutch "lace, string," Old High German fezzera, Old Norse fiöturr, Swedish fjätter), from PIE root *ped- "foot" (see foot (n.)). The generalized sense of "anything that shackles" had evolved in Old English. Related Fetters.


c.1300, from Old English gefetrian (see fetter (n.)). Related: Fettered; fettering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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