ob·​sta·​cle | \ ˈäb-sti-kəl How to pronounce obstacle (audio) , -ˌsti- \

Definition of obstacle

: something that impedes progress or achievement Mosquitoes were a great obstacle to the building of the Panama Canal. … elders … often facing daily medical, social, and psychological obstacles.— Vicki Bloom and B. B. Green-Field

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Examples of obstacle in a Sentence

He overcame the obstacles of poverty and neglect. They must overcome a number of obstacles before the restaurant can be opened. Lack of experience is a major obstacle for her opponent. She swerved to avoid an obstacle in the road.
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Recent Examples on the Web There was one big obstacle in their path, by the name of Gary Herbert. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Here’s what the Utah Legislature has been up to in recent days," 30 Jan. 2021 One historical obstacle to internet retail adoption was that some advantages of the in-person shopping experience couldn’t be recreated. Greg Ip, WSJ, "Covid-19 Propelled Businesses Into the Future. Ready or Not.," 26 Dec. 2020 As mentally tough as his team might be, Heath didn’t need one more obstacle to overcome in a pandemic season already unlike any other. Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune, "Minnesota United heads to MLS Western Conference final in a rush," 6 Dec. 2020 More voices in support of gender-affirming health care coverage could remove at least one obstacle. Scottie Andrew And Giulia Heyward, CNN, "Almost 1 in 10 transgender Americans use nonprescribed hormones because they're uninsured or insurance won't cover the cost," 17 Nov. 2020 One obstacle, says Jenny Diamond Cheng, a lecturer at Vanderbilt Law School, was Representative Emanuel Celler, who wielded power in the House Judiciary Committee. Manisha Claire, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Young Activists Got 18-Year-Olds the Right to Vote in Record Time," 11 Nov. 2020 Indeed, one obstacle to solving this problem was that many people outside the military assumed it had already been solved. Elliott Ackerman, Wired, "A Navy SEAL, a Quadcopter, and a Quest to Save Lives in Combat," 30 Oct. 2020 The most significant obstacle to the 2021 season will be COVID-19. Sarah Mclellan, Star Tribune, "NHL all-division format will be dynamic," 12 Jan. 2021 One obstacle to universal cooperation is that many people who take risks don’t get the virus, which encourages them to take more risks. Steve Chapman, chicagotribune.com, "Column: The pandemic has been a national test. We flunked.," 30 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obstacle.' 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 obstacle

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for obstacle

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin obstaculum, from obstare to stand in front of, from ob- in the way + stare to stand — more at ob-, stand

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Time Traveler for obstacle

Time Traveler

The first known use of obstacle was in the 14th century

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Statistics for obstacle

Last Updated

19 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Obstacle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obstacle. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for obstacle



English Language Learners Definition of obstacle

: something that makes it difficult to do something
: an object that you have to go around or over : something that blocks your path


ob·​sta·​cle | \ ˈäb-stə-kəl How to pronounce obstacle (audio) \

Kids Definition of obstacle

: something that stands in the way or opposes : hindrance

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