• synonyms


  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 fetterless

Historical Examples

  • She wished to be fetterless, free to come and go as she pleased.

    The Purple Heights

    Marie Conway Oemler

  • I love every man who has lifted his voice in all the ages for liberty, for a chainless body, and a fetterless brain.


    Robert G. Ingersoll

  • Oh, the heart is a free and a fetterless thing— / A wave of the ocean, a bird on the wing.

  • We need free bodies and free minds—free labor and free thought—chainless hands, and fetterless brains.

  • We need free bodies and free minds,—free labor and free thought,—chainless hands and fetterless brains.

    Thomas Paine

    Robert G. Ingersoll

British Dictionary definitions for fetterless


  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 fetterless



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