1 of 4


thwarted; thwarting; thwarts

transitive verb

: to oppose successfully : defeat the hopes or aspirations of
: to run counter to so as to effectively oppose or baffle : contravene
: to pass through or across
thwarter noun


2 of 4


ˈthwȯrt How to pronounce thwart (audio)
 nautical often  ˈthȯrt


3 of 4


: situated or placed across something else : transverse
thwartly adverb


4 of 4


: a seat extending athwart a boat

Did you know?

Try to compile a long list of words in English that begin with “thw,” and prepare to be thwarted in your attempt: there aren’t many, and a goodly portion of those that do exist, such as thwartwise and the now-obsolete thwartsaw, start with thwart itself. Today we mostly use thwart as a verb to mean “to defeat or oppose successfully” but a lesser-known meaning of the word is “to pass through or across.” And it’s that sense that points to the origin of this odd-sounding word. In early Middle English, thwert was an adverb meaning “across” or “transversely,” used to describe how something lies across the length of something else. The verb thwerten came from this adverb and eventually became thwart. The link between the meanings becomes clear if you think of thwarting a plan, effort, etc., as blocking a road or path, thereby impeding another’s progress. And if you’re at cross-purposes with someone, you two are mutually—even if unintentionally—thwarting each other’s plans.

Choose the Right Synonym for thwart

frustrate, thwart, foil, baffle, balk mean to check or defeat another's plan or block achievement of a goal.

frustrate implies making vain or ineffectual all efforts however vigorous or persistent.

frustrated attempts at government reform

thwart suggests frustration or checking by crossing or opposing.

the army thwarted his attempt at a coup

foil implies checking or defeating so as to discourage further effort.

foiled by her parents, he stopped trying to see her

baffle implies frustration by confusing or puzzling.

baffled by the maze of rules and regulations

balk suggests the interposing of obstacles or hindrances.

officials felt that legal restrictions had balked their efforts to control crime

Examples of thwart in a Sentence

Verb She did all she could to thwart his plans. The army thwarted the attempt at a coup.
Recent Examples on the Web
On Thursday, the school was able to thwart a first attempt by sending one of the instigators and the target student home. Keri Brenner, The Mercury News, 30 May 2024 Biden’s Justice Department has already filed twin monopolization cases against Google and in March sued Apple Inc. for allegedly thwarting innovation on its iPhone. Leah Nylen, TIME, 23 May 2024 The greater threat to national security could be the economic fallout of policies that thwart innovation and send entrepreneurs overseas. Chris Perkins, Fortune, 22 May 2024 By contrast, an alliance with the center-right Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party, might thwart the A.N.C.’s efforts to make companies provide more opportunities for the Black majority. John Eligon Prentice Onayemi Anna Diamond Devin Murphy, New York Times, 21 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for thwart 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'thwart.' 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 thwerten, from thwert, adverb


Middle English thwert, from Old Norse thvert, from neuter of thverr transverse, oblique; akin to Old High German dwerah transverse, oblique


alteration of obsolete thought, thoft, from Middle English thoft, from Old English thofte; akin to Old High German dofta rower's seat

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined above


circa 1736, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of thwart was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near thwart

Cite this Entry

“Thwart.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 4 verb
: to stand in the way of : hinder by opposing
she thwarted me at every opportunity
: to defeat the hopes, desires, or plans of
the goalie thwarted their attempts to score
thwarter noun


2 of 4 adverb


3 of 4 adjective
: situated or placed across something else


4 of 4 noun
: a rower's seat extending across a boat


Middle English thwerten (verb) "oppose, hinder," from thwert (adverb) "across"


Middle English thwert "across"; of Norse origin

More from Merriam-Webster on thwart

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