bot·tle·neck | \ˈbä-tᵊl-ˌnek \

Definition of bottleneck 

(Entry 1 of 3)

: narrow bottleneck harbors



Definition of bottleneck (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : a narrow route

b : a point of traffic congestion

2a : someone or something that retards or halts free movement and progress

b : impasse

c : a dramatic reduction in the size of a population (as of a species) that results in a decrease in genetic variation

3 : a style of guitar playing in which glissando effects are produced by sliding an object (such as a knife blade or the neck of a bottle) along the strings

called also bottleneck guitar


bottlenecked; bottlenecking; bottlenecks

Definition of bottleneck (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to slow or halt by causing a bottleneck

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Synonyms for bottleneck

Synonyms: Noun

backup, jam, jam-up, logjam, snarl, tie-up

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Examples of bottleneck in a Sentence


Bridge construction has created a bottleneck on the southern part of Main Street. All decisions must be approved by the committee, and this is where the company runs into bottlenecks.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Marine mammals around geographic bottlenecks, like the Bering Strait and the eastern Canadian Arctic, were as much as three times more vulnerable than populations in more remote areas, according to the study. Adam Aton, Scientific American, "Ships Threaten Arctic Marine Mammals," 3 July 2018 The United States’ record production has plateaued for now, in part because of pipeline bottlenecks in West Texas’ booming Permian Basin. Rye Druzin, San Antonio Express-News, "U.S. rig count up by 5," 6 July 2018 The United States' record production has plateaued for now, in part because of pipeline bottlenecks in West Texas' booming Permian Basin. Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle, "U.S. crude stocks unexpectedly rise," 5 July 2018 There are some hints that the bottleneck may be clearing, though, with companies including BitPay, Coinsource, and BitStamp anticipating that their applications could be approved imminently. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "The Ledger: Is New York's BitLicense an 'Absolute Failure?'," 25 May 2018 Commuters and weekend drivers alike have complained for years about traffic bottlenecks on Interstate 80 near the city of Davis and across the Yolo Causeway. Tony Bizjak And Kellen Browning, sacbee, "Toll lanes on the Yolo Causeway? State begins tackling I-80 bottlenecks with creative ideas," 4 June 2018 One potential obstacle for US drillers is a bottleneck of pipeline capacity to ship oil from the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico to ports and refineries. David Koenig, The Christian Science Monitor, "US expected to surpass Saudi Arabia, Russia as world's top oil producer," 12 July 2018 One potential obstacle for U.S. drillers is a bottleneck of pipeline capacity to ship oil from the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico to ports and refineries. David Koenig, Anchorage Daily News, "US soon to leapfrog Saudis, Russia as top oil producer," 12 July 2018 The courts have long been the bottleneck in revoking citizenship. Adiel Kaplan, miamiherald, "Miami grandma targeted as U.S. takes aim at naturalized immigrants with prior offenses," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The reconstruction of the power grid — bottlenecked by bureaucracy, outdated laws, and potentially corruption — has been unbearably slow. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Puerto Rico’s blackout is now the second largest on record worldwide," 13 Apr. 2018 Traffic will often bottleneck in certain areas — through much of San Marcos in the afternoon and in Escondido and part of San Marcos in the mornings -- causing delays of 10 to 30 minutes. J. Harry Jones,, "Highway 78 traffic study asks drivers to slow down to decrease bottlenecks," 19 Mar. 2018 From long waits at Fairmont and the Beltway to bottleneck backups on SH 225, Pasadena residents collectively spend a lot of time in traffic each day. Jennifer Bolton, Houston Chronicle, "Tough traffic spots in Pasadena? Residents say this is where you'll find them.," 27 Feb. 2018 And then there was Act II, in which Elliott’s progress was bottlenecked by the Seattle defense, or maybe by his own coaching staff. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "Zeke gains 97 yards in return, but no touches in critical moment," 24 Dec. 2017 The dinner crowd shuttled into the venue and bottlenecked at the bar, appropriately. Tunde Wey, San Francisco Chronicle, "Black women are the future of the food industry," 15 Dec. 2017 The wreck occurred shortly before 2:30 p.m. as traffic bottlenecked in a work zone on I-70 in Kansas. Shane Sanderson Ellen Cagle And Ian Cummings, kansascity, "Highway Patrol: Truck driver in wreck that killed 5 was driving too fast, not paying attention," 14 July 2017 A smartphone app, known as Sport Evac Lite, will become available as well, so security staff and ushers can see where fans and cars could bottleneck. Allison Barrie, Fox News, "High-tech terror testing keeps game day safe," 2 Feb. 2012 Mr. Kaloyev finds his fictionalized counterpart in Nikolai Koslov, a man whose operatic despair becomes sublimated and bottlenecked into a quest for revenge. Maya Phillips, New York Times, "Review: A Father Consumed by Grief in ‘My Eyes Went Dark’," 26 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bottleneck.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bottleneck


1854, in the meaning defined above


1806, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1919, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

21 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for bottleneck

The first known use of bottleneck was in 1806

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More Definitions for bottleneck



English Language Learners Definition of bottleneck

: a section of road or highway where the traffic moves very slowly

: something that slows down a process


bot·tle·neck | \ˈbä-tᵊl-ˌnek \

Kids Definition of bottleneck

: a place or condition where improvement or movement is held up That intersection is a traffic bottleneck.

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