tee·ter | \ˈtē-tər \
teetered; teetering; teeters

Definition of teeter 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to move unsteadily : wobble

b : waver, vacillate teetered on the brink of bankruptcy

2 : seesaw



Definition of teeter (Entry 2 of 2)

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Synonyms & Antonyms for teeter

Synonyms: Verb

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

Antonyms: Verb

dive (in), plunge (in)

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Examples of teeter in a Sentence


The pile of books teetered and fell to the floor. She teetered down the street in her high heels.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The still-developing trade market seems to be teetering on whether the Yankees, Dodgers, Brewers or some dark horse team pries Manny Machado from the Orioles. Jeff Sanders, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Trade talk doesn't faze All-Star Brad Hand one bit," 12 July 2018 The Enquirer/Kareem Elgazzar The Enquirer/Kareem Elgazzar Fifty years ago this week, after the April 4 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., parts of Cincinnati seethed with anger, teetering on the brink of violence for four days. Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati.com, "A decade-by-decade look at how Avondale came back after the 1968 riots," 4 Apr. 2018 Big missions, like the attempt to blow up the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, get broken down into smaller sub-missions, each of which keeps teetering on the brink of failure, necessitating yet another risky scheme. Noel Murray, The Verge, "The Last Jedi Blu-ray is a chance to reevaluate the film’s divisive casino subplot," 30 Mar. 2018 Three years ago, a tiny Denver company called Lilis Energy was, like many small oil and gas producers, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as crude prices plunged. Jordan Blum, San Antonio Express-News, "Lilis may be an acquisition target," 13 July 2018 This is meant to be about how Gilead is built atop a gigantic, teetering tower of exploitation and subjugation. Constance Grady, Vox, "The Handmaid’s Tale introduces a burst of dark camp in “Postpartum”," 4 July 2018 The musical high school dramedy teetered between an after-school special on acid and a heartwarming celebration of the underdog. refinery29.com, "The Hallmarks Of A Ryan Murphy Show," 4 June 2018 Many of these creatures are now teetering on the edge. National Geographic, "Ancient Royal Tomb Yields Strange New Ape Species," 21 June 2018 The Puerto Rico power grid is teetering, one government official said, despite $3.8 billion in repairs. CBS News, "As hurricane season begins, 11,000 people in Puerto Rico still without power," 1 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

First Suburb by Chana Porter *World Premiere* November 16 – December 19, 2018 Five preteens teeter on the brink of adolescence when a shocking and violent act interrupts their insular world of personal struggles and triumphs. Wei-huan Chen, Houston Chronicle, "Catastrophic Theatre's 2018-19 season features Will Eno and Robert O'Hara," 27 June 2018 Instead of stitching the hipbelt to the back panel, Kelty feeds it behind the lumbar pad and allows it a few millimeters of movement, as if each wing of the hipbelt were a playground teeter-totter. Kelly Bastone, Outside Online, "The Best Women’s Backpacking Packs," 13 July 2018 Illinois teeters on the edge of a recession because union pension obligations are far too high to repay at any tax rate. Michael Hicks, Indianapolis Star, "Hicks: Ruling against public-sector unions makes us freer," 1 July 2018 The bow teeter-totters delicately over two large industrial light bulbs planted in a crude wooden bowl. Joseph Giovannini, New York Times, "Swiss Institute Has a New Home Ready-Made for Art," 28 June 2018 While 29-year-old former Bachelor Ben Higgins falls solidly in the millennial bracket and Old Pillow Lips, born in 1981, teeters right on the edge of Generation Y, Wills would be the first Bachelor lead to actually feel like a millennial. refinery29.com, "Can We Start The Wills Reid For Bachelor Campaign Right Now?," 10 July 2018 Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, both men who sandwiched him in office, are dead; George senior teeters; Bill Clinton tremors when tired and, at 71, has begun to fade before our eyes. Michael Paterniti, GQ, "Jimmy Carter for Higher Office," 26 June 2018 Lady Macbeth, meanwhile, becomes overcome with guilt and teeters toward insanity. Mitchel Benson, sacbee, "STC's 'Macbeth' pays proper tribute to the tragedy of murder and madness," 28 Feb. 2018 Zone Out's script, just like Sunspring's, teeters on the edge of inanity and emotion—which, honestly, puts it right up there with the best of the sci-fi canon. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "This wild, AI-generated film is the next step in “whole-movie puppetry”," 11 June 2018

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


1844, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1860, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for teeter


Middle English titeren to totter, reel; akin to Old High German zittarōn to shiver

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Phrases Related to teeter

teetering on the brink/edge of

Statistics for teeter

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for teeter

The first known use of teeter was in 1844

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More Definitions for teeter



English Language Learners Definition of teeter

: to move in an unsteady way back and forth or from side to side


tee·ter | \ˈtē-tər \
teetered; teetering

Kids Definition of teeter

: to move unsteadily back and forth or from side to side Ramona mounted the bicycle and … teetered and wobbled to the corner without falling off.— Beverly Cleary, Ramona Quimby

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Comments on teeter

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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