fet·​ter | \ ˈfe-tər How to pronounce fetter (audio) \

Definition of fetter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a chain or shackle for the feet
2 : something that confines : restraint


fettered; fettering; fetters

Definition of fetter (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to put fetters on : shackle
2 : to restrain from motion, action, or progress

Choose the Right Synonym for fetter


hamper, trammel, clog, fetter, shackle, manacle mean to hinder or impede in moving, progressing, or acting. hamper may imply the effect of any impeding or restraining influence. hampered the investigation by refusing to cooperate trammel suggests entangling by or confining within a net. rules that trammel the artist's creativity clog usually implies a slowing by something extraneous or encumbering. a court system clogged by frivolous suits fetter suggests a restraining so severe that freedom to move or progress is almost lost. a nation fettered by an antiquated class system shackle and manacle are stronger than fetter and suggest total loss of freedom. a mind shackled by stubborn prejudice a people manacled by tyranny

Did you know?

While now used as a more general term for something that confines or restrains, fetter was originally applied specifically to a chain or shackle for the feet. Not surprisingly, the word's Old English ancestor, feter, is etymologically shackled to fōt, the Old English ancestor of foot. Fetter is also used as a verb with meanings that correspond to the noun's meanings: a prisoner can be fettered literally, and a person can feel fettered by obligations or responsibilities.

Examples of fetter in a Sentence

Noun a time-honored tradition is fine as long as it doesn't become a fetter that prevents us from trying something new claims that government regulations are unnecessary fetters that keep him from achieving his business goals Verb He found himself fettered by responsibilities. museum artifacts that serve as somber reminders of the days when slaves were fettered with irons
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And then there’s the New Deal, another famous attempt to slap fetters on the rough beast of capitalism. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, 22 Nov. 2019 This early recording is unique—brisk and pugnacious, a stormy, bitter Schubert raging against his earthly fetters and then distilling his passions, in the last movement, into headlong lunges, dazzling whirls, and delicate pirouettes. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 12 Mar. 2020 Like the shrimp and grits, the fetter papa burger ($15) is appropriately decadent. Lindsey Mcclave, The Courier-Journal, 28 Aug. 2019 The smartest of Logan's four children spent most of Succession's first season rejecting the fetters of the Roy name to varying degrees of success. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, 12 Aug. 2019 Rousseau regarded them as fetters on the people’s freedoms. The Economist, 1 Aug. 2019 India has a populist leader happy to interfere with the central bank, China has ditched term limits to make its Communist leadership even more dictatorial than usual and the Philippine president revels in rejecting fetters on extrajudicial killing. James Mackintosh, WSJ, 14 Aug. 2018 The past worked as fetters on our limbs, and the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward. Eli Meixler, Time, 13 June 2018 In its latest phase, from the 1990s, Germany has reunified, become a normal country again and shed some of the fetters of its past. The Economist, 14 Apr. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Teddy Roosevelt broke up the trusts, regulated the food supply, created the National Park System, and fettered the railroads. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, 22 Nov. 2019 Botany was also often fettered to expertise in gardening, another activity that fell within the realm of the feminine. Amandas Ong, The Atlantic, 17 Apr. 2018 In many developing countries, girls face two starkly divergent paths: one fettered by gender inequality and cut short by early childbearing and the other offering personal fulfillment and economic improvement that benefit families and nations. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 Apr. 2018 While your job is to enforce the consistency that stylebooks aim for, you must not be fettered by it. John E. Mcintyre, baltimoresun.com, 25 Aug. 2017 See More

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

First Known Use of fetter


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fetter


Middle English feter, from Old English; akin to Old English fōt foot

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The first known use of fetter was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Fetter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetter. Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for fetter


fet·​ter | \ ˈfe-tər How to pronounce fetter (audio) \

Kids Definition of fetter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a chain for the feet
2 : something that holds back : restraint


fettered; fettering

Kids Definition of fetter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to chain the feet of
2 : to keep from moving or acting freely He was fettered by many responsibilities.

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