1. walking unsteadily or shakily.
  2. lacking security or stability; threatening to collapse; precarious: a tottering empire.

verb (used without object)

  1. to walk or go with faltering steps, as if from extreme weakness.
  2. to sway or rock on the base or ground, as if about to fall: The tower seemed to totter in the wind. The government was tottering.
  3. to shake or tremble: a load that tottered.


  1. the act of tottering; an unsteady movement or gait.

verb (intr)

  1. to walk or move in an unsteady manner, as from old age
  2. to sway or shake as if about to fall
  3. to be failing, unstable, or precarious


  1. the act or an instance of tottering

c.1200, “swing to and fro,” perhaps from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Norwegian totra “to quiver, shake”). Meaning “stand or walk with shaky, unsteady steps” is from c.1600. Related: Tottered; tottering.

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