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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 fettered
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They would not allow him to resist, but fettered him and led his spirit away.

  • In this spirit, he was fettered with great care, and conveyed into the interior of the prison.

    Barnaby Rudge Charles Dickens
  • Here again our legislation is fettered by ignorance and religious dogma.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • Under the earth the fettered men—on the ruins of the church the singing bird.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
  • And shall we crouch above these graves,With craven soul and fettered lip?

    The Liberty Minstrel George W. Clark
  • Do you see how he has misused me; has fettered me to the sick-bed?

    The Home Fredrika Bremer
  • I will help him throw off the shackles with which conscienceless capitalism has fettered him.

    The Mask

    Arthur Hornblow
  • His face changed, as it will with fear, and he dragged his feet, as though they were fettered.

  • He was confused in his gait, almost as if his lower limbs had been fettered, too.

    The Escape of Mr. Trimm Irvin S. Cobb
British Dictionary definitions for fettered


(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 fettered



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



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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