un·​fet·​tered | \ ˌən-ˈfe-tərd How to pronounce unfettered (audio) \

Definition of unfettered

: not controlled or restricted : free, unrestrained unfettered access to the Senate.— Joshua Miller … an approach to reading which combined passion and empathy with free-ranging enthusiasm and unfettered curiosity.— Jonathan Keates If popular government is about anything, it is about the unfettered right of the voters to choose their leaders.— Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. … few voices in modern American intellectual life have challenged the primacy of the unfettered individual.— Walter Shapiro

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A fetter is a chain or shackle for the feet (as used on a prisoner), or, more broadly, anything that confines or restrains. The word derives from Middle English feter and shares an ancestor with Old English fōt, meaning "foot." Fetter and unfetter both function as verbs in English with contrasting literal meanings having to do with the putting on of and freeing from fetters; they likewise have contrasting figurative extensions having to do with the depriving and granting of freedom. The adjective unfettered resides mostly in the figurative, with the word typically describing someone or something unrestrained in progress or spirit. This is how English poet and clergyman John Donne used the word in his early 17th-century work The Progress of the Soule: "To an unfetterd soules quick nimble hast / Are falling stars, and hearts thoughts, but slow pac'd."

Examples of unfettered in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Gurney’s Montauk Resort now offers exclusive memberships with unfettered access to top-of-the-line treatments and facilities. Kathryn Romeyn, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Aug. 2022 People crave unfettered access to good information to guide their decision-making. Jeff Fromm, Forbes, 18 July 2022 Yet Weinzierl adds that Earth is full of unfettered capital, and space offers one new place to park it. Rebecca Boyle, Scientific American, 28 July 2022 Nope is his most confident, unfettered, and potentially most divisive vision yet. Zack Sharf, Variety, 18 July 2022 The transfer portal has become the equivalent of unfettered free agency. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 5 July 2022 For the Native communities tied to the Bears Ears region, our history and heritage loss from decades of unfettered artifact theft and boarding schools is immeasurable. Dr. Len Necefer, Outside Online, 29 June 2022 But unfettered sales of oil, especially given today’s high prices, will also fund the Russian war against Ukraine. Samanth Subramanian, Quartz, 27 June 2022 Sports’ sanctions against Russia could be the beginning of the end of largely unfettered global competition. Matthew Futterman, New York Times, 27 June 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of unfettered

1602, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of unfettered was in 1602

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Last Updated

12 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Unfettered.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unfettered. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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