v. stag·gered, stag·ger·ing, stag·gers
To move or stand unsteadily, as if under a great weight; totter. See Synonyms at blunder.
1. To cause to totter, sway, or reel: The blow staggered him.
2. To astonish, shock, or overwhelm: a teacher staggered by a former student's accomplishments; a company staggered by increases in energy costs.
3. To place on or as if on alternating sides of a center line; set in a zigzag row or rows: theater seats that were staggered for clear viewing.
4. To arrange in alternating or overlapping time periods: staggered the nurses' shifts.
5. To arrange (the wings of a biplane) so that the leading edge of one wing is either ahead of or behind the leading edge of the other wing.
6. Sports To arrange (the start of a race) with the starting point in the outside lanes progressively closer to the finish line so as to neutralize the advantage of competing in the shorter inside lanes.
1. A tottering, swaying, or reeling motion.
2. A staggered pattern, arrangement, or order.
3. staggers (used with a sing. verb) Any of various diseases in animals, especially horses, cattle, or other domestic animals, that are characterized by a lack of coordination in moving, a staggering gait, and frequent falling.
[Alteration of Middle English stakeren, from Old Norse stakra, frequentative of staka, to push.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.