stag·​ger | \ ˈsta-gər How to pronounce stagger (audio) \
staggered; staggering\ ˈsta-​g(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce staggering (audio) \

Definition of stagger

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : to reel from side to side : totter
b : to move on unsteadily staggered toward the door
2 : to waver in purpose or action : hesitate
3 : to rock violently the ship staggered

transitive verb

1 : to cause to doubt or hesitate : perplex
2 : to cause to reel or totter
3 : to arrange in any of various zigzags, alternations, or overlappings of position or time stagger work shifts stagger teeth on a cutter



Definition of stagger (Entry 2 of 3)

1 staggers plural in form but singular or plural in construction : an abnormal condition of domestic animals associated with damage to the central nervous system and marked by incoordination and a reeling unsteady gait
2 : a reeling or unsteady gait or stance
3 : an arrangement in which the leading edge of the upper wing of a biplane is advanced over that of the lower



Definition of stagger (Entry 3 of 3)

: marked by an alternating or overlapping pattern

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Other Words from stagger


staggerer \ ˈsta-​gər-​ər How to pronounce staggerer (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for stagger

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of stagger in a Sentence

Verb She staggered over to the sofa. A hard slap on the back staggered him. It staggers me to see how much money they've spent on this project. They staggered the runners' starting positions. Noun He walked with a slight stagger.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb So, that could stagger or, more likely, delay the start of minor league spring training, which would delay and probably shorten the minor league season. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Fans got some good exposure to Rangers minor leaguers last season. Here are some who could arrive in 2021," 12 Nov. 2020 The Utah Board of Education has 15 seats total, but only about half are up for election every two years to stagger the terms. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Republicans win 8 of 9 open seats on Utah Board of Education," 4 Nov. 2020 At office buildings around the city, agencies are planning changes to space out and stagger workers for safety, according to plans that have already been submitted. Katie Honan, WSJ, "New York Aims to Bring Back 25% of City-Government Workers by Year’s End," 19 Oct. 2020 Vents in the rocks and ground were releasing more than 500 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide — levels that could cause humans to stagger and collapse within five minutes. ProPublica, "Oil Companies Are Profiting From Illegal Spills. And California Lets Them.," 18 Sep. 2020 When some grades went back in the spring, there were efforts to stagger schedules and reduce class sizes. Washington Post, "German schools, reopened a month ago, have seen no major coronavirus outbreaks," 11 Sep. 2020 The governor noted that more than 1 million students have returned to classrooms across the state as schools have begun to stagger their reopenings, which will begin as early as this week. Lucas Manfredi, Fox News, "Florida's DeSantis: Closing schools in spring might have been one of nation's 'biggest public health mistakes'," 4 Oct. 2020 By not issuing all the bonds at once, the city could stagger each one and use existing tax rates to pay it off, according to the city. Paulina Pineda, The Arizona Republic, "Voters in 3 metro Phoenix cities will see multimillion-dollar bond requests on November ballot," 30 Sep. 2020 Schools allowed to reopen will be required to stagger the start date, with K-2 students coming back first, followed by third, fourth and fifth graders two weeks later and, in the case of K-8 schools, the middle school students two weeks after that. Jill Tucker,, "New tracker lets you see which S.F. schools are ready to reopen for in-person learning," 22 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Throughout Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, Brooks suggests that the instability of human bodies—the wobble, stagger, fall, self-righting—might be the source of consciousness itself. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "My Roomba Has Achieved Enlightenment," 20 Oct. 2020 Here, Royce is waiting to trap on the other side of the Jokic screen, but what nobody seems to realize is that this middle stagger action involves mutliple pickers. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Jamal Murray could set a record for points in a playoff series. Do the Jazz have a way to stop him?," 31 Aug. 2020 Alex Van Pelt has changed his footwork Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt immediately changed Mayfield’s footwork, asking him to lead with his left foot with in the shotgun and on shorter drops and removing a giant stagger from his dropbacks. cleveland, "Will Baker Mayfield regain his accuracy? Cleveland Browns 20 questions for ‘20," 8 July 2020 Transporting students also has become a logistical nightmare with districts trying to social-distance them in buses and stagger schedules, while keeping the vehicles sanitized, according to some district officials. Tawnell D. Hobbs, WSJ, "Millions of Students Head Back to School for a Year Like No Other," 8 Sep. 2020 How sad to watch three of Power Five college football conferences stagger on toward a pandemic season with outbreaks surfacing at every turn. Bruce Jenkins,, "NBA draft 2020: Why Warriors should take James Wiseman with No. 2 pick," 21 Aug. 2020 Guidelines suggest that workplaces stagger shifts, to reduce the number of people in the office at one time. Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland, "How offices are returning to work safely during coronavirus: Top Workplaces 2020," 28 June 2020 According to state officials’ recommendations, schools may have to intermittently leverage remote learning, stagger student schedules and conduct health screenings to ensure students and staff can safely partake in classes. Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post, "Colorado schools may require temperature checks, mix of in-person and online classes for fall semester," 26 May 2020 For a season's worth of cilantro, stagger plantings every three to four weeks. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "The Proper Way to Care for Your Cilantro Plant, Especially If You're Growing From Seed," 26 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The state also recommends businesses stagger workers’ schedules. Fortune, "New York City entered reopening phase 1 of 4 today. Here’s what will change in each phase," 8 June 2020 Schools across the nation are planning deep cleans as students stagger schedules to return to instruction. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "Many businesses promise to 'deep clean' offices before reopening. But what does that mean?," 3 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stagger.' 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 stagger


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1918, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stagger


alteration of earlier stacker, from Middle English stakeren, from Old Norse stakra, frequentative of staka to push; perhaps akin to Old English staca stake — more at stake

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Time Traveler for stagger

Time Traveler

The first known use of stagger was in the 15th century

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Statistics for stagger

Last Updated

20 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stagger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for stagger


How to pronounce stagger (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of stagger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to move or cause (someone) to move unsteadily from side to side
: to shock or surprise (someone) very much
: to arrange (things) in a series of different positions or times



English Language Learners Definition of stagger (Entry 2 of 2)

: an unsteady movement while walking or standing


stag·​ger | \ ˈsta-gər How to pronounce stagger (audio) \
staggered; staggering

Kids Definition of stagger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to move or cause to move unsteadily from side to side as if about to fall : reel He staggered under the load's weight.
2 : to cause or feel great surprise or shock The news staggered me.
3 : to arrange or be arranged in a zigzag but balanced way She stared at the dark brown and purple ridges staggered in the distance …— Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising



Kids Definition of stagger (Entry 2 of 2)

: a reeling or unsteady walk

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