Definition of teeter in English:



  • 1 Move or balance unsteadily; sway back and forth.

    ‘she teetered after him in her high-heeled sandals’
    • ‘She ran her hands through her hair in a gesture of aggravation and stood, teetering on unsteady legs.’
    • ‘The clown clumsily teetered back and forth and vanished in a flash of colorful confetti.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Molly looked at Aaron in surprise as he pulled himself up onto his feet, teetering unsteadily for a second.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He pushed them both into the fountain while they were still teetering off balance.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I tugged again, and then as I stumbled, the suitcase teetered, and fell backwards, bouncing down the stairs to land at the bottom.’
    • ‘Right in the middle of the room was Vince, his eyes were only partially open and his body was teetering back and forth.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Ana stood with the assistance of the bed, teetering unsteadily, smirk on her face, bottle in hand.’
    • ‘Alex's books fell and she teetered backwards and would have fallen if it weren't for an arm grabbing her by the waist.’
    • ‘They bob and teeter while feeding, and move nervously and quickly over rocks, probing for active prey on the surface.’
    • ‘She teetered precariously before moving once again to position her feet solidly on the ground.’
    • ‘Cows wander the streets, ragged children pester dogs with sticks, tailors teeter past on bicycles balancing bolts of fabric.’
    • ‘She was standing on the edge of the huge rock, teetering, and her reddish-brown hair swung about as she did.’
    • ‘He was swaying dangerously, teetering near the edge of the house.’
    • ‘I watched it as it teetered back and forth, threatening to fall off in a most ungraceful fashion.’
    • ‘With a heavy thud she slammed into the hat rack, which teetered and tottered before tipping toward her.’
    totter, walk unsteadily, wobble, toddle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1often teeter between Be unable to decide between different courses; waver.
      ‘she teetered between tears and anger’
      • ‘At the very least, feminists should be considering these legal alternatives, while the Court teeters in the balance.’
      • ‘The woman we meet in this book teeters from one fringe position to another, and somehow always remains balanced.’
      • ‘His voice teetered on a high pitch between stability and insanity.’
      • ‘Over the past 29 months, the family has teetered back and forth between several of the possibilities, convinced at times of one, then another.’
      • ‘And the market simply teeters back and forth, worrying and then feeling relieved again.’
      see-saw, veer, fluctuate, oscillate, swing, yo-yo, alternate
      View synonyms


  • teeter on the brink (or edge)

    • Be very close to a difficult or dangerous situation.

      ‘the country teetered on the brink of civil war’
      • ‘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 of war, he recalls his journey back to his birthplace and the changed land he found’
      • ‘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, here, at last, is a time for frankness.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It teeters on the brink of journalistic disloyalty.’
      • ‘The corporate sector is already teetering on the edge of a profits crisis, as the next chart shows.’
      • ‘The world, at that time, was teetering on the edge of nuclear catastrophe, walking the tightrope between the western powers and the erstwhile USSR.’
      • ‘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.’


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