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stale·​mate ˈstāl-ˌmāt How to pronounce stalemate (audio)
: a drawing position in chess in which a player is not in checkmate but has no legal move to play
: a drawn contest : deadlock
also : the state of being stalemated


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stalemated; stalemating; stalemates

transitive verb

: to bring into a stalemate

Examples of stalemate in a Sentence

Noun The budget debate ended in a stalemate. The new agreement could break the stalemate. The budget debate ended in stalemate.
Recent Examples on the Web
In the space of 24 months, Israel held four elections ending in stalemate, with neither Netanyahu nor his rivals winning a majority. Anshel Pfeffer, The Atlantic, 27 Mar. 2024 Yet this outcome now seems like a stalemate, if not a defeat. Dominic Tierney, Foreign Affairs, 25 Mar. 2024 In the United States, the largest single donor country, Congress remains locked in a stalemate over whether to approve further aid for Ukraine; the eventual outcome could define the future of the conflict. Henrik Pettersson, CNN, 20 Mar. 2024 Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, following talks here with senior officials from more than 40 partner nations, described the conflict’s dramatic global stakes as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two-year-old invasion remains mired in a costly stalemate. Missy Ryan, Washington Post, 19 Mar. 2024 Following two rounds of voting — because the first ended in a stalemate, with each player receiving one vote — Cannatella and Tamburello voted out fellow Faithful Javid, 51. Dana Rose Falcone, Peoplemag, 8 Mar. 2024 Houthi and Iranian attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure and military in Yemen brought the war between Iranian proxies and the UAE-Saudi coalition to a stalemate by 2015. Ariel Cohen, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Even after breaking the stalemate and signing Soler to a three-year, $42 million deal, a number of high-profile free agents remain available, and the Giants shouldn’t be counted out for any of them. Evan Webeck, The Mercury News, 14 Feb. 2024 By all accounts, the war in Ukraine has settled into a stalemate, with both sides hammering away with 20th century weapons like artillery and tanks. TIME, 8 Feb. 2024
Zelenskyy will endeavor to keep his country’s long and largely stalemated defense against Russia on the minds of political leaders in attendance. USA TODAY, 16 Jan. 2024 Ultimately, if Russia’s edge in strategic adaptation persists without an appropriate Western response, the worst that can happen in this war is not stalemate. Mick Ryan, Foreign Affairs, 5 Feb. 2024 Congressional Republicans appear stalemated on a border deal that would free up aid to Ukraine. Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2024 The games’ findings—that strategic bombing would fail to convince the North Vietnamese to surrender and that the United States would end up stalemated in a bloody conflict in Vietnam—were remarkably prescient. Jacquelyn Schneider, Foreign Affairs, 26 Dec. 2023 And along stretches of the battlefront, fighting is somewhat stalemated. Lolita C. Baldor, Fortune, 15 Dec. 2023 But stalemate at the front and signs of fraying support have many in Europe worried. Emily Rauhala, Washington Post, 20 Nov. 2023 Most important, though, is that Congress not stalemate over this funding at this moment. The Editors, National Review, 2 Nov. 2023 Putin’s comments come as the war in Ukraine remains stalemated and the Russian leader casts the conflict as a struggle against Western hegemony and dominance. TIME, 6 Oct. 2023

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

Word History



obsolete English stale stalemate (from Middle English, from Anglo-French estaler to stalemate, from estal station, position) + English mate entry 1 — more at installment entry 1

First Known Use


1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1765, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of stalemate was in 1765

Dictionary Entries Near stalemate

Cite this Entry

“Stalemate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
stale·​mate ˈstā(ə)l-ˌmāt How to pronounce stalemate (audio)
: a position in chess that results in a draw when the only piece to be moved is the king which cannot be moved without being exposed to attack by the other player's piece
: a drawn or undecided contest : deadlock
the two sides reached a stalemate in their negotiations


2 of 2 verb
stalemated; stalemating
: to bring into a stalemate
the talks were stalemated over the issue of payment

More from Merriam-Webster on stalemate

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