stale·​mate | \ ˈstāl-ˌmāt How to pronounce stalemate (audio) \

Definition of stalemate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a drawing position in chess in which a player is not in checkmate but has no legal move to play
2 : a drawn contest : deadlock also : the state of being stalemated


stalemated; stalemating; stalemates

Definition of stalemate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to bring into a stalemate

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Examples of stalemate in a Sentence


The budget debate ended in a stalemate. The new agreement could break the stalemate. The budget debate ended in stalemate.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mark Wilson/Getty Images The government is five days into a partial shutdown, and Congress and the president are no closer to a deal to fund it, foreshadowing a stalemate that could drag on into 2019. Li Zhou, Vox, "Wednesday is day 5 of a partial government shutdown. It could go on for a while.," 26 Dec. 2018 The whiplash nature of Trump's foreign policy clearly also was a factor in the return, for now, to a stalemate. Barbara Demick,, "In canceling the North Korea summit, Trump found an exit from an increasingly risky meeting, analysts say," 24 May 2018 Nor is there a clear path through the Senate, which reached a stalemate on four immigration bills in the winter after President Trump threatened to veto a bipartisan compromise. Sarah Binder, Washington Post, "Some moderate Republicans are trying to force a House vote on DACA. Here’s what that means.," 10 May 2018 But on many issues, divided control means there’s likely to be stalemate in Washington, leaving much of the action in the states. Stephanie Armour, WSJ, "Election Shifts Health-Care Landscape Across the U.S.," 8 Nov. 2018 But Moon faces tougher challenges heading into his third meeting with Kim with the stalemate in nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington raising fundamental questions about Kim’s supposed willingness to abandon his nukes. Kim Tong-hyung, The Seattle Times, "South Korean envoys leave for North Korea to set up summit," 4 Sep. 2018 With the stalemate in the Senate essentially stripping the Republicans of their leverage, the Assembly Democrats adopted a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Vivian Wang, New York Times, "Even for Albany, an Unusually Unproductive End to Session," 21 June 2018 Northern Ireland stood in Switzerland's way and after a narrow 1-0 win at Windsor Park thanks to a Ricardo Rodríguez penalty, the Schweizer Nati held out for a stalemate in Basel to book their place at the World Cup., "2018 FIFA World Cup Team Preview: Analysing Switzerland's Chances at the Tournament," 3 June 2018 However, the talks hit a stalemate at the weekend over the Irish border. Paul Hannon, WSJ, "BOE Official Warns of Pound’s Fate If EU Trade Deal Isn’t Reached," 17 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The union, according to Peter King, in turn asked the NFL for comprehensive data on how teams are distributing prescription painkillers to players, and things stalemated from there. Matt Bonesteel,, "According to Martellus Bennett, NFL players smoke marijuana at a very high rate," 11 Apr. 2018 With the two sides stalemated, the state entered what would become a historic, two-year budget impasse. Kim Geiger,, "Thursday state budget deadline looms in first year of talks after historic stalemate," 25 May 2018 With the bases loaded and the game stalemated at 1-1 at the top of the eighth inning, a pair of infield errors by Apopka helped the Huskies score two runs., "Hagerty takes down Apopka 5-1 in extra innings," 7 Apr. 2018 Throw in hot weather and a confusing war that has stalemated much of the progress that was being made or could be made. Burt Solomon, The Atlantic, "Our Back Pages: The Atlantic and Civil Rights," 4 Apr. 2018 But after the convention stalemated for 35 ballots, delegates stampeded to an alternative all knew as a competent and intelligent candidate, Garfield himself. Kenneth D. Ackerman, Smithsonian, "The Garfield Assassination Altered American History, But Is Woefully Forgotten Today," 2 Mar. 2018 And partisan differences have stalemated spending bills in the Senate. Sarah Binder, Washington Post, "Four takeaways from the short-lived shutdown," 24 Jan. 2018 But Larson was among the 105 representatives to approve the bill after debate ended, though property tax reform ultimately failed when the two chambers stalemated. Jasper Scherer, San Antonio Express-News, "Abbott ad targets Larson’s voting record," 20 Feb. 2018 But the truth is that the battle was stalemated until Trump came into office and unleashed the military with new rules of engagement. Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, "What Syria Teaches Us About ‘America First’," 25 Jan. 2018

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


1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1765, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stalemate


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

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Last Updated

17 Mar 2019

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The first known use of stalemate was in 1765

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More Definitions for stalemate



English Language Learners Definition of stalemate

: a contest, dispute, competition, etc., in which neither side can gain an advantage or win
: a situation in chess in which a player cannot successfully move any of the pieces and neither player can win

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a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

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