verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)


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 formsstag·ger·er, nounout·stag·ger, verb (used with object)un·stag·gered, adjective

Synonyms for stagger

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stagger

Contemporary Examples of stagger

Historical Examples of stagger

  • Mr Vladimir did not stumble, did not stagger back, did not change his stride.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • She saw De Launay stagger again and felt that she was about to faint.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • Later, she used to stagger from one hammock to another and swing them.

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael

  • Twice they were driven to their knees, only to stagger on as the convulsions lessened.

    The Golden Woman

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • She thumps and lurches, and they stagger together, feeling sick.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for stagger



(usually intr) to walk or cause to walk unsteadily as if about to fall
(tr) to astound or overwhelm, as with shockI am staggered by his ruthlessness
(tr) to place or arrange in alternating or overlapping positions or time periods to prevent confusion or congestiona staggered junction; to stagger holidays
(intr) to falter or hesitatehis courage staggered in the face of the battle
(tr) 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 Formsstaggerer, noun

Word Origin for stagger

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

Word Origin and History for stagger

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