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

Definition of unfettered

: free, unrestrained unfettered access

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A fetter is a chain or shackle for the feet (as on a prisoner), or, more broadly, anything that confines or restrains. The word derives from Middle English "feter" and shares a relationship with Old English fot, meaning "foot." In current English "unfettered" typically suggests that someone or something is figuratively "unchained," or unrestrained in progress or spirit. The poet John Donne is believed to have been the first to use "unfettered" in this way, in his 1601 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

The Justice Department, which has been working with those agencies to arrange the transfer of documents, said it was caught in the middle and doesn’t have unfettered access to the materials defense attorneys had requested. Abigail Summerville, WSJ, "Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes to Face Trial Next Year on Fraud Charges," 28 June 2019 Commercialization has provided unfettered access to testing. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, "The Paternity Reveal," 24 June 2019 The lucky ones, like Jose Mario Barralaga, 28, from La Ceiba, Honduras, obtained humanitarian visas allowing them unfettered travel through Mexico. San Diego Union-Tribune, "At Mexico’s southern border, migrants feel the pinch of a crackdown spurred by U.S.," 13 June 2019 Having written a series of slavish articles attacking the media’s coverage of Trump, Wolff was given unfettered access to the White House. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Is There a Right Way to Cover the Trump White House?," 6 June 2019 Fishing pressure is relatively low, and many river systems along the northern coast run wild, unfettered by dams. Anne Casselman, National Geographic, "Searching for the world's last remaining sawfish," 18 Apr. 2019 No surprise, then, that smaller museums feel equally unfettered by tradition and celebrate the eccentric rather than the academic. Tony Perrottet, WSJ, "Surreal Los Angeles: Touring the City’s Strangest Museums," 18 Apr. 2018 There is no other car this side of a Porsche Boxster as unfettered or as well balanced. Car and Driver, "2019 10Best Cars," 28 Nov. 2018 The ball itself was a sight to behold, like stepping into the unfettered brain of Frida Kahlo. Zachary Schwartz, Vogue, "The Brooklyn Artists Ball Was a Frida Kahlo–Inspired Fiesta," 17 Apr. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of unfettered

circa 1631, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for unfettered

Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for unfettered

The first known use of unfettered was circa 1631

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English Language Learners Definition of unfettered

formal : not controlled or restricted

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characterized by aphorism

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