fal·​ter | \ ˈfȯl-tər How to pronounce falter (audio) \
faltered; faltering\ ˈfȯl-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce faltering (audio) \

Definition of falter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to walk unsteadily : stumble the … stranger falters out of the thicket and drops to his knees— Dudley Fitts
b : to give way : totter could feel my legs faltering
c : to move waveringly or hesitatingly forced to bail out of faltering airplanes over the AlpsNat'l Geographic
2 : to speak brokenly or weakly : stammer her voice faltered
3a : to hesitate in purpose or action : waver he never faltered in his determination
b : to lose drive or effectiveness the business was faltering

transitive verb

: to utter hesitatingly or brokenly faltered an excuse



Definition of falter (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or instance of faltering

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Other Words from falter


falterer \ ˈfȯl-​tər-​ər How to pronounce falterer (audio) \ noun
falteringly \ ˈfȯl-​t(ə-​)riŋ-​lē How to pronounce falteringly (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for falter

Synonyms: Verb

balance, dither, halt, hang back, hesitate, scruple, shilly-shally, stagger, teeter, vacillate, waver, wobble (also wabble)

Antonyms: Verb

dive (in), plunge (in)

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Choose the Right Synonym for falter


hesitate, waver, vacillate, falter mean to show irresolution or uncertainty. hesitate implies a pause before deciding or acting or choosing. hesitated before answering the question waver implies hesitation after seeming to decide and so connotes weakness or a retreat. wavered in his support of the rebels vacillate implies prolonged hesitation from inability to reach a firm decision. vacillated until events were out of control falter implies a wavering or stumbling and often connotes nervousness, lack of courage, or outright fear. never once faltered during her testimony

Examples of falter in a Sentence


The business was faltering due to poor management. Their initial optimism has faltered. signs that the economy is faltering Her steps began to falter.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As chains have faltered, indie bookshops are experiencing a resurgence in the US, increasing their numbers by 53% to more than 2,500 stores between 2009 and 2019, according the the American Booksellers Association. Sarah Todd, Quartz, "Barnes & Noble’s fate rests in the hands of a British indie bookstore owner," 21 July 2019 Turnover margin Alabama gained just four turnovers in the back half of the season as the pristine sheet for the offense also faltered. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al.com, "What Alabama football should fix in 2019," 11 July 2019 Oil explorers last week cut back on the number of drilling rigs, matching a one-year low as crude’s rally falters amid concerns over demand. Kara Carlson, Dallas News, "Who's the next to join Dallas-Fort Worth's billion-dollar-a-year club?," 7 July 2019 While there’s not a flood of new listings, inventory has swelled as sales faltered. Andrew Khouri, latimes.com, "Southern California home prices are flat in May as sales fall," 26 June 2019 Moscow also became more aggressive as the American effort in Afghanistan faltered. Thomas Grove, WSJ, "Russia, China Vie for Influence in Central Asia as U.S. Plans Afghan Exit," 18 June 2019 Financial markets are flashing warning signs as global economic growth falters and the U.S.-China trade war continues to fester. Rachel Layne, CBS News, "Recession fears are back -- should you be worried?," 16 Aug. 2019 If some begin to falter, that could affect the global economy and hinder things in the U.S. Erik Sherman, Fortune, "Why the Fed Cut Interest Rates—and What to Watch for Next," 31 July 2019 Skills such as concept formation, abstraction and mental agility begin to falter, as does response inhibition, defined as the ability to inhibit an automatic response in favor of producing a novel one. Robert Zaretsky, Twin Cities, "Robert Zaretsky: We need a mandatory retirement age for us professors," 18 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

His pace is as electric as ever, his passing crisp as could be and well, even when his finishing falters, those aforementioned German defenders are more than willing to oblige. SI.com, "90min's Definitive European Player Power Rankings: International Break Special," 9 Sep. 2019 If the service falters or show serious signs of weakness, its competitors are going to be eager to pounce -- and make any PR problems associated with that worse. Brian Lowry, CNN, "Netflix could face trouble ahead. Here's why," 20 Aug. 2019 China's current economic slowdown—sparked, in part, by its ongoing trade war with the United States—is one reason for Baidu's falter. Fortune, "Baidu Loses, Then Regains, Its Spot in China’s 5 Most Valuable Internet Companies," 16 Aug. 2019 If the former vice president falters, or if his campaign continues to resemble a never-ending apology tour, donors are investing in contingency candidates, and right now that means Buttigieg and Harris. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "What Does Big Tech Want From Buttigieg?," 9 July 2019 Boston’s lead was erased in the seventh with a disastrous nine-run inning that saw the Yankees send 14 guys to the plate and three Red Sox relievers falter, from Marcus Walden to Matt Barnes to Josh Taylor. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Red Sox traveled long way to learn they’re far from being threat to Yankees," 30 June 2019 And demand for social services will increase when the economy falters, which is precisely the time when the state’s tax collections fall. The Economist, "WelfareCalifornia and Texas are both failing their neediest citizens," 22 June 2019 Why, then, does the pulse of the narrative falter in the second half? Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Gus Van Sant’s Semi-Surreal “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”," 13 July 2018 The Broncos are left without a prized rookie QB to take over if Case Keenum falters, but the team around Keenum has been improved. Mark Maske, chicagotribune.com, "AFC draft grades: The Broncos are alone at the top followed by a lot of pass/fails," 30 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'falter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of falter


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1834, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for falter

Verb and Noun

Middle English

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Statistics for falter

Last Updated

20 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for falter

The first known use of falter was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for falter



English Language Learners Definition of falter

: to stop being strong or successful : to begin to fail or weaken
: to begin to walk or move in an unsteady way
: to feel doubt about doing something


fal·​ter | \ ˈfȯl-tər How to pronounce falter (audio) \
faltered; faltering

Kids Definition of falter

1 : to move unsteadily : waver
2 : to hesitate in speech
3 : to hesitate in purpose or action

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More from Merriam-Webster on falter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with falter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for falter

Spanish Central: Translation of falter

Nglish: Translation of falter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of falter for Arabic Speakers

Comments on falter

What made you want to look up falter? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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