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

Those obstacles include, cold, choppy water and the occasional shark. Glendale News-Press, "La Crescenta resident braves swim from Alcatraz to raise money for cancer patients," 15 Aug. 2019 The city had previously declined to award Bird a permit to operate scooters, but the acquisition of Scoot allowed Bird to sidestep that obstacle. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Skip’s new scooter has a sturdier deck, bigger wheels, and a swappable battery," 14 Aug. 2019 Despite continued insult-to-injury setbacks, Berman, who also co-shot, co-edited and served as a producer, hangs in there and decides to use these mounting obstacles in his narrative favor. Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘The Amazing Johnathan Documentary’ profiles irascible magician in an illusory way," 14 Aug. 2019 In some areas the sudden surplus of wheels created sidewalk obstacles and led to vandalism, prompting new fees, speed limits and rules for parking and education. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Tariffs, tech issues put brakes on North County coastal bike-share program," 12 Aug. 2019 One New York couple which has surmounted these obstacles is Rafael Feldman, an actor-producer-director, and Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, a recording artist and the founder of SohoMuse, a networking platform for creative professionals. Ben Widdicombe, Town & Country, "Does Succession Get Tom and Shiv's Relationship Right? A Vanderbilt Says Yes.," 11 Aug. 2019 Isn’t that one of the biggest questions and obstacles for faith? Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, "Could You Use Some Hope?," 10 Aug. 2019 This season has yet to reach such a moment, mostly because the Cubs have yet to go on a prolonged winning stretch, with road games serving as an overwhelming obstacle. Paul Sullivan, chicagotribune.com, "In Joe Maddon’s ‘win-or-bust’ season, the final 7 weeks could determine his Cubs fate," 9 Aug. 2019 When those obstacles include dealing with issues related to your racial or gender identity, there are added layers of difficulty. Jesi Taylor Cruz, SELF, "As a Pregnant Black Non-Binary Femme, Finding the Right Doula Changed My Life," 8 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for obstacle

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for obstacle

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on obstacle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with obstacle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for obstacle

Spanish Central: Translation of obstacle

Nglish: Translation of obstacle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of obstacle for Arabic Speakers

Comments on obstacle

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


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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