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 With three quarters of the world’s environment already altered by humans, a staggering one million plant and animal species risk extinction. Daniel Wolfe, Quartz, "Newly discovered species or latest Pokémon character?," 31 Dec. 2019 The childhood poverty rate in Athens County currently stands at a staggering 31.5 percent. Phillip Morris, cleveland, "Joe Burrow is a kid from Southeast Ohio who delivers big on the gridiron and inspires in real life: Phillip Morris," 29 Dec. 2019 But within that, spending on attorneys is up 24 percent, on financial services, up 67 percent, and up a staggering 118 percent on debt service – a real-terms increase of $80 million. John Phelan, Twin Cities, "John Phelan: Crime, budget, population numbers suggest public safety needs more attention in St. Paul," 20 Nov. 2019 In a recent conversation with THR, Fleischer also discusses the particulars of the Hound Dog Hotel oner, Bill Murray’s return and Venom’s staggering box office numbers. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Zombieland' Director on Potential Zoey Deutch Spinoff and Favorite Deleted Scenes," 23 Oct. 2019 That being the performance of Gators quarterback Malcolm Brown, who put up staggering numbers in their 42-35 home loss to Oakland Mills on Friday night. Jacob Calvin Meyer,, "Howard County football notebook: Reservoir QB Brown sets school single-game passing record; Hammond introduces takeaway chain," 1 Oct. 2019 Clouds and fog appear across the hills and valleys; the cinematography, by Jörg Widmer, is staggering, translating the sight of a gathering storm into a symbol of God’s wrath. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Terrence Malick Is Back," 14 Dec. 2019 And this winter, the amount of intellectual property on the move is staggering. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "MLB's most important moves off the field: 14 hires reshaping the league's brainpower balance," 12 Dec. 2019 According to our research and that of others, the costs of food insecurity related to health and education in the U.S. are staggering. Stephanie Ettinger De Cuba, STAT, "Cutting 700,000 Americans from SNAP will increase health costs," 6 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There are a lot of big decisions on deck as the Sox stagger to the finish. Dan Shaughnessy,, "Dave Dombrowski discovers having the biggest payroll always comes with a price," 9 Sep. 2019 That could strengthen the new SPD leader and let the coalition stagger on. The Economist, "Andrea Nahles’s resignation leaves Germany’s government teetering," 8 June 2019 His mother said the family is aware of the smattering of crass fans who use social media to badger college kids when expectations not of their own making stagger. Bryce Miller,, "It's Trey's time as Kell-led Aztecs fight into NCAA field," 13 Mar. 2018 Critics say his abandoning of the TPP was a colossal error; the countries that the Obama administration rallied behind the most ambitious trade deal in history stagger along without U.S. leadership. Andrew Browne, WSJ, "Trump’s New National-Security Policy: Paper Tiger or Hidden Dragon?," 19 Dec. 2017 As the Orioles stagger to the end of the season, there's speculation that manager Buck Showalter might shut down Bundy, who's now at a career-high 1692/3 innings. David Ginsburg,, "Benintendi's 2-Run Single In 11th Lifts Red Sox Past Orioles," 19 Sep. 2017 A concerned Shaw watched Meyer, dazed and bleeding from scrapes, stagger to his feet. Gary D'amato, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "D'Amato: Carl Meyer keeps swinging, and swinging, for veterans," 4 July 2017 The clumsy stagger-step between every action is a pain, but it’s basically all there is to Valkyria Revolution’s combat. Steven Strom, Ars Technica, "Valkyria Revolution trades in cult-classic status for wasted promise," 27 June 2017 And now the Celtics stagger forward without their leading scorer and best playmaker into Quicken Loans Arena to take on the Cavs, who throttled them twice in Boston and have won 13 straight postseason games. Tom Withers,, "Bradley Hits Last-second Shot, Celtics Stun Cavs, 111-108," 21 May 2017

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

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stagger.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 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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More from Merriam-Webster on stagger

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stagger

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stagger

Spanish Central: Translation of stagger

Nglish: Translation of stagger for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stagger for Arabic Speakers

Comments on stagger

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


to express in a more acceptable way

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