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See more synonyms for fetter on Thesaurus.com
  1. a chain or shackle placed on the feet.
  2. Usually fetters. anything that confines or restrains: Boredom puts fetters upon the imagination.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to put fetters upon.
  2. to confine; restrain.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for fettering

Historical Examples

  • From heaven came the chains, that were used for fettering the minds of mortals.

    Good Sense

    Paul Henri Thiry, Baron D'Holbach

  • But there's nothing so fettering, so despicable as good form.

    The Vision Spendid

    William MacLeod Raine

  • But such restraint as this became, in a short time, so fettering, that the Abb determined to break away from it.

  • As soon as the Light appeared, the boy found himself delivered from the fettering power of the Evil One.

  • But Dryden alone moves unfettered in the fettering couplet—alone of those who have submitted to the fetters.

British Dictionary definitions for fettering


  1. (often plural) a chain or bond fastened round the ankle; shackle
  2. (usually plural) a check or restraintin fetters
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verb (tr)
  1. to restrict or confine
  2. to bind in fetters
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Derived Formsfetterer, nounfetterless, 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

Word Origin and History for fettering



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

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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper