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

His administration’s attempt to negotiate a trade deal with the bloc has also faltered as the two sides continue to disagree about which industries, like agriculture, should be included in any deal. BostonGlobe.com, "The trade body opened the door for the Trump administration to impose billions of dollars in retaliatory sanctions in May, when it ruled that Europe had illegally subsidized Airbus to the detriment of its American competitor Boeing.," 17 Sep. 2019 His administration’s attempt to negotiate a trade deal with the bloc has also faltered as the two sides continue to disagree about which industries, like agriculture, should be included in any deal. New York Times, "Trump Cleared to Put More Tariffs on Europe in Airbus Case," 16 Sep. 2019 The former editor of PC World Magazine and CNET, Fox lost his taste for journalism while watching its business model falter amid the rise of digital media. John Wenzel, The Know, "Urban Putt transforms Denver’s Old Spaghetti Factory into surreal mini-golf playground (with a bar)," 13 Sep. 2019 The candidates arrived in Houston with many of their campaigns frustrated by the resilience of Biden, who continues to enjoy solid front-runner standing in the polls despite faltering several times on the trail. Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times, "Biden clashes with Warren and Sanders at the Democratic debate over the party’s future," 12 Sep. 2019 Retail sales offer a timely snapshot of spending each month and a sustained downward trend would signal consumers are pulling back, and economic growth may ultimately falter. Reade Pickert, Fortune, "U.S. Recession Indicators Haven’t Made Up Their Minds," 12 Sep. 2019 If the storm encounters a patch of cold ocean water, the natural formation of the hurricane can slow and falter until the storm dissipates. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "How warm oceans supercharge deadly hurricanes," 4 Sep. 2019 Banking on Ms Warren faltering seems a risky strategy. J.e.f. | Washington, The Economist, "How the Democratic field is narrowing," 3 Sep. 2019 Should retail sales falter, more panic about a potential economic downturn could ensue. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Trade tensions aren't going away. Investors, beware," 25 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

With small donors, success can breed success, but a falter on the trail can touch off a cash crisis. Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times, "Small donors don’t cut it for many Democratic candidates. Back to the rich," 4 Sep. 2019 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

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

4 Oct 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

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