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 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 It can be addressed only by tackling the risks of unfettered globalization, foreign interference in elections, and networks of corruption. Thomas Wright, The Atlantic, 9 June 2021 There was always a possibility that the 2019 fire sale was going to mark an unofficial end to Disney’s unfettered dominance of theatrical moviegoing. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 7 June 2021 Athletes have been given more power and control over their individual situations — rightfully so — and that freedom has inspired unfettered mobility to a degree that now resembles free agency. Star Tribune, 3 June 2021 Lighthizer, Trump’s trade negotiator, was perhaps the first person to fill that position as a critic of unfettered trade. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, 2 June 2021 Private sector employers usually recoil at the idea of regulation; after all, unfettered free markets underpin their own business models. Robert Galvin, Fortune, 1 June 2021 Though the Portuguese capital still offered its signature food, museums, picturesque vistas and attractions, stringent mask rules and curfews reminded visitors this would not be an unfettered escape. New York Times, 29 May 2021 Prior to the massacre, only a couple of generations removed from slavery, unfettered Black prosperity in America was urban legend. Aaron Morrison, Anchorage Daily News, 25 May 2021 Greene is the unfettered id of the Republican Party in 2021, a sideshow character who feeds on confrontation and a scorn for Democrats and the basic function of government. Gregory Krieg, CNN, 15 May 2021

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

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

13 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unfettered.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unfettered. Accessed 17 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of unfettered

formal : not controlled or restricted

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