Reel, whirl, stagger, totter are comparable when they mean to move or seem to move uncertainly or uncontrollably (as in weakness, in giddiness, or in intoxication).
Reel usually implies a turning round and round, or a sensation of so turning or being turned.
But it may also imply a being thrown off balance (as an army that recoils before a mighty attack, a ship that has lost its equilibrium, or a person affected by exhaustion, a wound, faintness, or intoxication).
Whirl (see also TURN ) is often used like reel, especially when referred to the head or to the brain, but it more frequently implies swiftness or impetuousness of movement often by someone or something being carried along blindly or furiously.
Stagger stresses uncertainty or uncontrollability of movement, typically of a person walking while weak, giddy, intoxicated, or heavily burdened, but sometimes of whatever meets with difficulty or with adverse conditions; thus, a boat that labors, a mind that is perplexed, confused, or bewildered, and a faith, opinion, or purpose that meets heavy opposition can all be said to stagger .
Totter (see also SHAKE ) implies not only weakness or unsteadiness as a cause of uncertain movement but often also suggests an approaching complete collapse.