Printable Version
Pronunciation: te-thêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A rope or chain used to restrict the range of movement, as 'a tether holding a blimp in place'. 2. Restriction, measure of one's limitation, as 'to be at the end of her tether'.

Notes: Most dictionaries limit the use of a tether to animals, but we may tether kids, balloons—anything we wish to limit in range of movement. This noun may be used as a verb, as 'to tether something to a pole'. A rarely used adjective, tethery, means "clinging, hard to separate".

In Play: This word usually refers to a line used to restrain movement: "I can't go anywhere without keeping my kid on a tether." However, it does also function as a measure of our limitations: "I had to go to the length of my tether to get this for you."

Word History: Tether is probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Danish tjr "rope", Swedish tjuder "tether", and Dutch tuier "line, rope". According to Etymonline, these words all derive from PIE root deu- "to fasten" + -tro, an instrumental suffix. Unfortunately, no Indo-European etymological dictionary has an entry for this root, including Etymonline. (Now it's time to thank William Hupy, him of the untethered vocabulary, for recommending we do today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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