ob·​sta·​cle ˈäb-sti-kəl How to pronounce obstacle (audio)
: 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web However, with the appointment of a new superintendent, Ryan Walters, there is hope for fresh perspectives, new ideas and overcoming existing obstacles. Armstrong Williams, Baltimore Sun, 14 Feb. 2024 One of the biggest obstacles to follow-up is when people try to shop out of their own pocket. Yec, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 Michael Keaton faces no shortage of obstacles as an aging assassin in the trailer for Knox Goes Away. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Feb. 2024 One of those obstacles was a sprawling river gorge less than halfway into the young mountain lion’s voyage, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. Brooke Baitinger, Idaho Statesman, 14 Feb. 2024 The fact that Vail was a businessman without any formal singing experience didn’t strike Wilson as any sort of obstacle. Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 There’s also a huge obstacle outside the law: Therapy is rarely free, and paying for it or submitting insurance claims often requires parental support. Michael Elsen-Rooney, Fortune, 11 Feb. 2024 The single-day urban snowboarding event offered a variety of unique obstacles and rails, and featured a mix of veteran snowboarders and up-and-coming talent from North America and Europe. John Autey, Twin Cities, 10 Feb. 2024 More developers are being forced to dodge a growing number of obstacles such as rising costs for construction financing, labor and materials with a backdrop of brutally high inflation and elevated interest rates. George Avalos, The Mercury News, 8 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'obstacle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near obstacle

Cite this Entry

“Obstacle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obstacle. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ob·​sta·​cle ˈäb-sti-kəl How to pronounce obstacle (audio)
: something that stands in the way of progress or achievement : hindrance
drove around the obstacles in the road
didn't let shortness be an obstacle to a basketball career

More from Merriam-Webster on obstacle

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