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stagger

[stag-er]
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verb (used without object)
  1. to walk, move, or stand unsteadily.
  2. to falter or begin to give way, as in an argument or fight.
  3. to waver or begin to doubt, as in purpose or opinion; hesitate: After staggering momentarily, he recognized that he had to make a decision.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to reel, totter, or become unsteady: This load would stagger an elephant.
  2. to shock; render helpless with amazement or the like; astonish: The vastness of outer space staggers the mind.
  3. to cause to waver or falter: The news staggered her belief in the triumph of justice.
  4. to arrange in a zigzag order or manner on either side of a center: The captain staggered the troops along the road.
  5. to arrange otherwise than at the same time, especially in a series of alternating or continually overlapping intervals: They planned to stagger lunch hours so that the cafeteria would not be rushed.
  6. Aeronautics. to arrange (the wings of a biplane or the like) so that the entering edge of an upper wing is either in advance of or behind that of a corresponding lower wing.
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noun
  1. the act of staggering; a reeling or tottering movement or motion.
  2. a staggered order or arrangement.
  3. Aeronautics.
    1. a staggered arrangement of wings.
    2. the amount of staggering.
  4. staggers. (used with a singular verb) Veterinary Pathology.
    1. Also called blind staggers.acute selenium poisoning of livestock characterized by a staggering gait usually followed by respiratory failure and death.
    2. a condition of unknown cause, occurring in pregnant sheep, cattle, and other animals during or just following extended transport, characterized by a staggering gait and progressive paralysis.
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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

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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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

wobbleshakelurchcareenteeterfalterreelparalyzedevastatedumbfoundoverwhelmpuzzleshatteramazestartleastonishstuntotterwheelalternate

Examples from the Web for stagger

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • 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

stagger

verb
  1. (usually intr) to walk or cause to walk unsteadily as if about to fall
  2. (tr) to astound or overwhelm, as with shockI am staggered by his ruthlessness
  3. (tr) to place or arrange in alternating or overlapping positions or time periods to prevent confusion or congestiona staggered junction; to stagger holidays
  4. (intr) to falter or hesitatehis courage staggered in the face of the battle
  5. (tr) to set (the wings of a biplane) so that the leading edge of one extends beyond that of the other
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noun
  1. the act or an instance of staggering
  2. a staggered arrangement on a biplane, etc
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See also staggers
Derived Formsstaggerer, noun

Word Origin

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

v.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper