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

Oh, and what with the tongue-in-cheek posing for the cameras during their show, that fashion needs to get back to some unfettered joy and fun. Mark Holgate, Vogue, "Symonds Pearmain Just Emerged As the Latest Label to Know From London," 16 Feb. 2019 By adopting a new dog and inviting us all to vicariously experience the unfettered joy of giving a home to an animal in need, that's how. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Joe Biden Adopts Adorable Shelter Dog," 18 Nov. 2018 Since becoming the bishop of Rome, the pontiff has published an apostolic exhortation deeply critical of unfettered capitalism, repeatedly offered vocal support for immigrants and produced an encyclical calling for action on climate change. Jack Jenkins, USA TODAY, "Pope Francis is still popular, but warm feelings waning among conservatives, survey finds," 7 Mar. 2018 The chief typically has unfettered access to the president, spending more time with him than anyone in his orbit. Rebecca Ballhaus, WSJ, "Trump Taps Mick Mulvaney as Acting Chief of Staff," 14 Dec. 2018 Experts agree that even a little bit of knowledge, combined with unfettered access to aircraft, could be a toxic combination in the wrong hands. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "How Did the Horizon Air Worker Fly a Plane Without Formal Training?," 13 Aug. 2018 Any nuclear deal will hinge on North Korea's willingness to allow unfettered outside inspections of the country's warheads and nuclear fuel, much of which is likely kept in a vast complex of underground facilities. Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, "Trump meets with Singapore PM one day before Kim Jong Un sitdown," 11 June 2018 State media remain Orwellian, but the internet is unrestricted and social-media apps allow for unfettered communication. The Economist, "How a victorious Bashar al-Assad is changing Syria," 28 June 2018 President Trump let loose on Mexico and congressional Democrats in a series of early morning tweets Monday as a caravan of Central American immigrants makes its way largely unfettered through Mexico on its way to the United States’ southern border. Fox News, "Trumps slams Mexico and Dems as caravan of immigrants heads to US southern border," 2 Oct. 2018

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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Last Updated

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


to boil down or concentrate

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