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[stag-er] /ˈstæg ər/
verb (used without object)
to walk, move, or stand unsteadily.
to falter or begin to give way, as in an argument or fight.
to waver or begin to doubt, as in purpose or opinion; hesitate:
After staggering momentarily, he recognized that he had to make a decision.
verb (used with object)
to cause to reel, totter, or become unsteady:
This load would stagger an elephant.
to shock; render helpless with amazement or the like; astonish:
The vastness of outer space staggers the mind.
to cause to waver or falter:
The news staggered her belief in the triumph of justice.
to arrange in a zigzag order or manner on either side of a center:
The captain staggered the troops along the road.
to arrange otherwise than at the same time, especially in a series of alternating or continually overlapping intervals:
They planned to stagger lunch hours so that the cafeteria would not be rushed.
Aeronautics. to arrange (the wings of a biplane or the like) so that the entering edge of an upper wing is either in advance of or behind that of a corresponding lower wing.
the act of staggering; a reeling or tottering movement or motion.
a staggered order or arrangement.
  1. a staggered arrangement of wings.
  2. the amount of staggering.
staggers, (used with a singular verb) Veterinary Pathology.
  1. Also called blind staggers. acute selenium poisoning of livestock characterized by a staggering gait usually followed by respiratory failure and death.
  2. a condition of unknown cause, occurring in pregnant sheep, cattle, and other animals during or just following extended transport, characterized by a staggering gait and progressive paralysis.
Origin of stagger
1520-30; earlier stacker to reel, Middle English stakeren < Old Norse stakra to reel, equivalent to stak(a) to stagger + -ra frequentative suffix
Related forms
staggerer, noun
outstagger, verb (used with object)
unstaggered, adjective
1. Stagger, reel, totter suggest an unsteady manner of walking. To stagger is successively to lose and regain one's equilibrium and the ability to maintain one's direction: to stagger with exhaustion, a heavy load, or intoxication. To reel is to sway dizzily and be in imminent danger of falling: to reel when faint with hunger. To totter is to move in a shaky, uncertain, faltering manner and suggests the immediate likelihood of falling from weakness or feebleness: An old man tottered along with a cane. 3. vacillate. 5. astound, confound, dumfound. 7. alternate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for staggers
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Near me staggers Billy, his left side completely paralyzed since he was released from the "White House."

    Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist Alexander Berkman
  • She said it was what she always used in Africa for bull-calves with the staggers.

    The Girl on the Boat Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
  • Now she staggers around the table, making insufferable cries.

    A Blue Devil of France G. P. Capart
  • staggers the brain of man to think of carrying that across the continent!

    Perkins of Portland Ellis Parker Butler
  • He staggers the last yard or two and falls into Joyce's arms, that are opened wide to receive him.

    April's Lady Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
  • Yes, yes, every word you say is true, Dick; but the daring of it all staggers me.

  • I dont mind any a good hot fight with the odds on the other side, but I admit this staggers me.

    Frank Merriwell's Triumph Burt L. Standish
  • It staggers one to think what it must be like in a real gale of wind.

    Yachting Vol. 1 Various.
British Dictionary definitions for staggers


noun (functioning as singular or pl)
a form of vertigo associated with decompression sickness
Also called blind staggers. a disease of horses and some other domestic animals characterized by a swaying unsteady gait, caused by infection, toxins, or lesions of the central nervous system


(usually intransitive) to walk or cause to walk unsteadily as if about to fall
(transitive) to astound or overwhelm, as with shock: I am staggered by his ruthlessness
(transitive) to place or arrange in alternating or overlapping positions or time periods to prevent confusion or congestion: a staggered junction, to stagger holidays
(intransitive) to falter or hesitate: his courage staggered in the face of the battle
(transitive) to set (the wings of a biplane) so that the leading edge of one extends beyond that of the other
the act or an instance of staggering
a staggered arrangement on a biplane, etc
See also staggers
Derived Forms
staggerer, noun
Word Origin
C13 dialect stacker, from Old Norse staka to push
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 staggers



1520s, altered from stakeren (c.1300), from Old Norse stakra or Old Danish stagra, both "to push, stagger." Cognate with Dutch staggelen "to stagger," German staggeln "to stammer." Transitive sense of "bewilder, amaze" first recorded 1550s; that of "arrange in a zig-zag pattern" is from 1856. Related: Staggered; staggering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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