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, tailback [British], 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

Instead, production bottlenecks in both Fremont and the company’s Nevada battery Gigafactory forced the company to repeatedly amend its timeline. David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, "Tesla misses Model 3 production target," 3 Apr. 2018 While an oil bottleneck in Alberta this year has caused bitumen to trade at a discount of about $40 to West Texas Intermediate, railroad companies are quickly adding capacity. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Judicial Keystone Kop," 13 Nov. 2018 Even if this thing is by no means a powerhouse PC, that still seems like an obvious bottleneck. Chris Welch, The Verge, "The Galaxy Book 2 is Samsung’s answer to the Surface Pro," 18 Oct. 2018 And in the Outer Banks, there are only three inlets, creating a bottleneck effect holding water upstream for an extended period of time. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Hurricane Florence could bring life-threatening floods, conditions to areas away from coastline as well," 13 Sep. 2018 But there’s a bottleneck short-term: insufficient flights. Doreen Hemlock, miamiherald, "Cubans are flocking to Guyana for economic reasons — but there's a twist," 28 June 2018 The result: a one-lane bottleneck right in the middle of beach season, heading from downtown to Edgewater Park. Emily Bamforth,, "West Shoreway bridge down to one lane, all summer long," 23 Apr. 2018 The pipeline is slated to come online by the end of 2019 to help relieve the bottleneck that's building in the Permian with rising crude production and not enough pipeline capacity to move it out of West Texas. Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle, "Apache, Noble sign on for EPIC Permian oil pipeline," 11 May 2018 Its chief executive, Elon Musk, has said he’s hoping to increase output to close to 6,000 a week, although analysts are skeptical given the bottlenecks the company has run into. The New York Times, New York Times, "Closing Arguments in AT&T Trial, and Jobs Numbers Will Be Released," 29 Apr. 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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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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Comments on bottleneck

What made you want to look up bottleneck? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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