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

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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 Yet the unfettered flogging of thoroughbreds, a practice that has long provided vivid contradiction of the sport’s professed affection for its animals, will henceforth carry steep penalties in Kentucky. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky is cracking the whip on excessively hitting thoroughbreds, with mixed opinions," 17 June 2020 In November 2018, Trump came under fire for writing an unfettered defense of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, littered with exclamation points, over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamaal Khashoggi. Josh Dawsey, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump asked China’s president for reelection help in 2020, Bolton writes in new book," 17 June 2020 Morrison also urged state and territory governments in Australia to ease their own border restrictions to allow unfettered domestic travel, after social-distancing measures reduced the daily growth rate of coronavirus case to less than 0.2%. Jason Scott, Bloomberg.com, "Australia Plans Limited Return of International Students," 14 June 2020 In a world without Section 230's protections, users might have many fewer opportunities for such unfettered self-expression. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "The Internet’s most important—and misunderstood—law, explained," 10 June 2020 On Tuesday, in a nearly five-hour meeting, board members unanimously voted to pass a motion granting McClary unfettered access to Dallas police data, including body cams and civilian complaints. Cassandra Jaramillo, Dallas News, "Amid backdrop of pandemic and protests, barriers emerge for revamped Community Police Oversight Board," 10 June 2020 This sluggish response gave the virus weeks to spread unfettered and virtually undetected. Gavin Yamey, Time, "U.S. Response to COVID-19 is Worse than China’s. 100 Times Worse.," 10 June 2020 The court ruling cleared the way for controls on campaign donations in metro-area races, potentially signaling an end to Oregon’s unfettered political giving. oregonlive, "The Oregonian/OregonLive’s ‘Polluted by Money’ wins inaugural Collier Prize," 10 June 2020 As ever, Britain’s unfettered access to Iran’s oil was premised on the threat of state violence. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "BP Is Not Woke. It’s an Imperialist Success Story.," 6 June 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of unfettered

1602, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unfettered

Time Traveler for unfettered

Time Traveler

The first known use of unfettered was in 1602

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about unfettered

Statistics for unfettered

Last Updated

24 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unfettered.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unfettered. Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unfettered


How to pronounce unfettered (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of unfettered

formal : not controlled or restricted

More from Merriam-Webster on unfettered

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unfettered

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with unfettered

Comments on unfettered

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!