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  1. a rope or strap with a noose or headstall for leading or restraining horses or cattle.
  2. a rope with a noose for hanging criminals; the hangman's noose; gallows.
  3. death by hanging.
  4. Also called halter top. a woman's top, secured behind the neck and across the back, leaving the arms, shoulders, upperback, and often the midriff bare.
verb (used with object)
  1. to put a halter on; restrain as by a halter.
  2. to hang (a person).
  1. (of a garment) having a neckline consisting of a cord, strap, band, or the like that is attached to or forms part of the front of a backless and sleeveless bodice and extends around the neck: a halter dress.

Origin of halter1

before 1000; Middle English; Old English hælfter; cognate with German Halfter
Related formshal·ter·like, adjectiveun·hal·tered, adjectiveun·hal·ter·ing, adjective


noun, plural hal·te·res [hal-teer-eez] /hælˈtɪər iz/.
  1. one of a pair of slender, club-shaped appendages on the hindmost body segment of a fly, serving to maintain its balance in flight.

Origin of halter2

< New Latin, special use of Latin halter jumping weight < Greek háltēr, akin to hállesthai, Latin salīre to jump (see saltant)
Also called balancer.


  1. a person who halts or brings to a stop.

Origin of halter3


  1. a person who halts, falters, or hesitates.

Origin of halter4

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at halt2, -er1


verb (used without object)
  1. to falter, as in speech, reasoning, etc.; be hesitant; stumble.
  2. to be in doubt; waver between alternatives; vacillate.
  3. Archaic. to be lame; walk lamely; limp.
  1. Archaic. lame; limping.
  1. Archaic. lameness; a limp.
  2. (used with a plural verb) lame people, especially severely lamed ones (usually preceded by the): the halt and the blind.

Origin of halt2

before 900; Middle English; Old English healt; cognate with Old High German halz, Old Norse haltr, Gothic halts, akin to Latin clādēs damage, loss
Related formshalt·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for halter

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Put a halter round her neck, and sell her for a pot of beer.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • I've no halter the way I can ride down on the mare, and I must go now quickly.

  • He struck the horse over the flank with the loose end of the halter rein.

  • They may win, and if they do, it will be our necks that will be put into the yoke--or the halter.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • When they reached her gate, it was she who took the halter from Elvin's hand, and tied the horse.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

British Dictionary definitions for halter


  1. a rope or canvas headgear for a horse, usually with a rope for leading
  2. Also called: halterneck a style of woman's top fastened behind the neck and waist, leaving the back and arms bare
  3. a rope having a noose for hanging a person
  4. death by hanging
verb (tr)
  1. to secure with a halter or put a halter on
  2. to hang (someone)

Word Origin

Old English hælfter; related to Old High German halftra, Middle Dutch heliftra


  1. an interruption or end to activity, movement, or progress
  2. mainly British a minor railway station, without permanent buildings
  3. call a halt to put an end (to something); stop
noun, sentence substitute
  1. a command to halt, esp as an order when marching
  1. to come or bring to a halt

Word Origin

C17: from the phrase to make halt, translation of German halt machen, from halten to hold 1, stop


verb (intr)
  1. (esp of logic or verse) to falter or be defective
  2. to waver or be unsure
  3. archaic to be lame
  1. archaic
    1. lame
    2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the halt
  1. archaic lameness

Word Origin

Old English healt lame; related to Old Norse haltr, Old High German halz lame, Greek kólos maimed, Old Slavonic kladivo hammer
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

Word Origin and History for halter


Old English hælftre "rope for leading a horse," from West Germanic *halftra- "that by which something is held" (cf. Old Saxon haliftra "halter," Old High German halftra, Middle Dutch halfter; see helve). In women's clothing sense, originally "strap attached to the top of a backless bodice and looped around the neck," 1935, later extended to the tops themselves.



"a stop, a halting," 1590s, from French halte (16c.) or Italian alto, ultimately from German Halt, imperative from Old High German halten "to hold" (see hold (v.)). A German military command borrowed into the Romanic languages 16c. The verb in this sense is from 1650s, from the noun. Related: Halted; halting.



"lame," in Old English lemphalt "limping," from Proto-Germanic *haltaz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian halt, Old Norse haltr, Old High German halz, Gothic halts "lame"), from PIE *keld-, from root *kel- "to strike, cut," with derivatives meaning "something broken or cut off" (cf. Russian koldyka "lame," Greek kolobos "broken, curtailed"). The noun meaning "one who limps; the lame collectively" is from c.1200.



"to walk unsteadily," early 14c., from Old English haltian "to be lame," from the same source as halt (adj.). The meaning "make a halt" is 1650s, from halt (n.). As a command word, attested from 1796. Related: Halted; halting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with halter


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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