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 formsfet·ter·er, nounfet·ter·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fetter

Historical Examples of fetter

  • 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.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for fetter



(often plural) a chain or bond fastened round the ankle; shackle
(usually plural) a check or restraintin fetters

verb (tr)

to restrict or confine
to bind in fetters
Derived Formsfetterer, nounfetterless, adjective

Word Origin for fetter

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

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