- walking unsteadily or shakily.
- lacking security or stability; threatening to collapse; precarious: a tottering empire.
Origin of tottering
- to walk or go with faltering steps, as if from extreme weakness.
- to sway or rock on the base or ground, as if about to fall: The tower seemed to totter in the wind. The government was tottering.
- to shake or tremble: a load that tottered.
- the act of tottering; an unsteady movement or gait.
Origin of totter
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for tottering
He is vividly, fearfully aware of how much worse things might get than the rotten, tottering system he upholds.Daenerys Goes to Washington: The Modern Politics of ‘Game of Thrones’
April 8, 2014
The bankrupt ones are outlined in red, while the tottering ones have orange outlines.Solyndra 2.0
April 2, 2013
Egypt is tottering between rule by Islamists and the military.Leslie H. Gelb on a World in Crisis—and What Obama Should Do
Leslie H. Gelb
December 14, 2011
Bags had grown to this enormous monstrosity, wildly unfunctional, akin to tottering around on seven-inch heels.Return of the Normal-Size Bag
Misty White Sidell
October 9, 2011
And in all the rest of the world, half a dozen old men, if so many, tottering toward their graves.Rahm's Historic Stupidity
September 23, 2009
Our Union is tottering to its foundation, and slavery is the cause.The Works of Whittier, Volume VII (of VII)
John Greenleaf Whittier
I went downstairs trembling, tottering, and my teeth chattering.My Double Life
It had taken this news from the harbor to bring him tottering, crashing down.The Harbor
He was not about to throw himself headlong from the summit of the tottering wall.Barnaby Rudge
The commercial and moral fabric of European civilization is tottering.The Paper Moneys of Europe
Francis W. Hirst
- to walk or move in an unsteady manner, as from old age
- to sway or shake as if about to fall
- to be failing, unstable, or precarious
- the act or an instance of tottering
Word Origin and History for tottering
c.1200, "swing to and fro," perhaps from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Norwegian totra "to quiver, shake"). Meaning "stand or walk with shaky, unsteady steps" is from c.1600. Related: Tottered; tottering.