Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Fetter

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is fetter. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

A fetter is a chain or shackle for the feet. Fetter is also used figuratively to refer to something that confines or restrains someone in some way.

// John keeps his smartphone with him when he goes hiking, but Linda leaves hers at home, preferring to free herself temporarily of the fetters of technology.

FETTER in Context

“The Alaska Constitution was written by a months-long gathering of 55 elected men and women in Fairbanks during the winter of 1955-1956. … They wanted a legislature free of the fetters that hobbled the older state governments—restraints that had prompted a nationwide outcry for constitutional reform in the years prior to the Alaska Constitutional Convention.” — Gordon Harrison, The Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, 24 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

While now used as a more general term for something that confines or restrains, fetter was originally applied specifically to a chain or shackle for the feet. Not surprisingly, the word’s Old English ancestor, feter, is etymologically shackled to fōt, the Old English ancestor of foot. Fetter is also used as a verb with meanings that correspond to the noun’s meanings: a prisoner can be fettered literally, and a person can feel fettered by obligations or responsibilities.

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