Etherington announced his retirement on Twitter, telling his followers a back problem had got the better of him.
The 33-year-old had been without a club since leaving Stoke at the end of last season – he made??176 appearances??for the Potters and scored 16 times, including a memorable run to the 2011 FA Cup final.
“Due to an ongoing back problem, the day has come for me to retire from professional football,” Etherington tweeted.
“I have some amazing memories since the day??I made my debut at just 15yrs old. Thank you to all the great clubs I have played for and to the supporters.
“I have made some mistakes??along the way but it has made me who I am today. I look at the past with pride and to the future with optimism.”
Etherington began his career with Peterborough and made his debut in the??Football League aged 15 years and 262 days in a win over Brentford in 1997.
He moved to Tottenham in 2000 along with fellow midfielder Simon Davies but??struggled to establish himself and spent a spell on loan at Bradford.
His career really took off when he joined West Ham in 2003 and Etherington??played nearly 200 games for the Hammers, appearing in the 2006 FA Cup final loss??to Liverpool, before being sold to Stoke in January 2009.
Etherington also represented England from U16 to U21 level but never??received a call-up to the senior side.