Definition of teeter in English:



  • 1no object, usually with adverbial Move or balance unsteadily; sway back and forth.

    ‘she teetered after him in her high-heeled sandals’
    • ‘Molly looked at Aaron in surprise as he pulled himself up onto his feet, teetering unsteadily for a second.’
    • ‘People who were standing upon the land were either thrown backwards into the crowd, or teetered back and forth on the rising ground of the levee.’
    • ‘I tugged again, and then as I stumbled, the suitcase teetered, and fell backwards, bouncing down the stairs to land at the bottom.’
    • ‘The clown clumsily teetered back and forth and vanished in a flash of colorful confetti.’
    • ‘He pushed them both into the fountain while they were still teetering off balance.’
    • ‘Right in the middle of the room was Vince, his eyes were only partially open and his body was teetering back and forth.’
    • ‘He was swaying dangerously, teetering near the edge of the house.’
    • ‘Ana stood with the assistance of the bed, teetering unsteadily, smirk on her face, bottle in hand.’
    • ‘I heard heavy footsteps on the porch steps and glanced over as the guy almost fell but grabbed the railing, teetering to the left unsteadily with a quiet laugh.’
    • ‘Alex's books fell and she teetered backwards and would have fallen if it weren't for an arm grabbing her by the waist.’
    • ‘The manouevre came dangerously close to spilling me entirely into the muck, but I teetered back and forth and finally came to rest still in the upright position.’
    • ‘Cows wander the streets, ragged children pester dogs with sticks, tailors teeter past on bicycles balancing bolts of fabric.’
    • ‘She ran her hands through her hair in a gesture of aggravation and stood, teetering on unsteady legs.’
    • ‘She teetered precariously before moving once again to position her feet solidly on the ground.’
    • ‘They bob and teeter while feeding, and move nervously and quickly over rocks, probing for active prey on the surface.’
    • ‘She was standing on the edge of the huge rock, teetering, and her reddish-brown hair swung about as she did.’
    • ‘With a heavy thud she slammed into the hat rack, which teetered and tottered before tipping toward her.’
    • ‘The carriage teetered precariously as he moved to take a seat opposite her and they stared at each other in a calming silence as she drank, but once she finished, the cup fell from her loose fingers and clattered loudly on the floor.’
    • ‘My legs, which I was already teetering on with dubious balance, seemed to give out and I collapsed, curling into a miserable ball under the glass.’
    • ‘I watched it as it teetered back and forth, threatening to fall off in a most ungraceful fashion.’
    totter, walk unsteadily, wobble, toddle
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    1. 1.1often teeter between Be unable to decide between different courses; waver.
      ‘she teetered between tears and anger’
      • ‘Over the past 29 months, the family has teetered back and forth between several of the possibilities, convinced at times of one, then another.’
      • ‘The woman we meet in this book teeters from one fringe position to another, and somehow always remains balanced.’
      • ‘And the market simply teeters back and forth, worrying and then feeling relieved again.’
      • ‘At the very least, feminists should be considering these legal alternatives, while the Court teeters in the balance.’
      • ‘His voice teetered on a high pitch between stability and insanity.’
      see-saw, veer, fluctuate, oscillate, swing, yo-yo, alternate
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  • teeter on the brink (or edge)

    • Be very close to a difficult or dangerous situation.

      ‘the country teetered on the brink of civil war’
      ‘they are teetering on the edge of exhaustion’
      • ‘Village shops continued to close while others teetered on the brink although community-owned shops, Internet retailing and home delivery schemes were becoming more popular.’
      • ‘It teeters on the brink of journalistic disloyalty.’
      • ‘Hidden debt not on balance sheets led many investors to believe companies were healthy when in fact they were teetering on the edge of insolvency.’
      • ‘As the country teeters on the brink of war, he recalls his journey back to his birthplace and the changed land he found’
      • ‘It's certainly ambitious and unusual, a traditional story told in a bravura, experimental style, which at times is hilarious but at others teeters on the edge of tedium.’
      • ‘As the country teeters on the brink, here, at last, is a time for frankness.’
      • ‘The corporate sector is already teetering on the edge of a profits crisis, as the next chart shows.’
      • ‘As the world teeters on the brink of their destruction it might ponder another way.’
      • ‘It's going to place a financial strain on everyone and those already teetering on the edge could find themselves going over.’
      • ‘The world, at that time, was teetering on the edge of nuclear catastrophe, walking the tightrope between the western powers and the erstwhile USSR.’


Mid 19th century: variant of dialect titter, from Old Norse titra ‘shake, shiver’.