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
He is accused of trying to help thwart an FBI investigation into Paul in exchange for a home kitchen remodel and a job for a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair. Lauren McGaughy, Dallas News, 12 Sep. 2023 But the Park District’s long-range goals may still be thwarted as Ishbia has remained unwilling to complete the land swap that would enable the Park District to create one contiguous beach. Alex Hulvalchick, Chicago Tribune, 11 Sep. 2023 That year, the Russian thwarted Djokovic's attempt to take all four major championships in a calendar year, a rare feat last accomplished in men's open competition by Rod Laver in 1969. Claire Cardona, NBC News, 10 Sep. 2023 New Jersey's Ocean City taps AI gun detection in hopes of thwarting mass shootings Earlier this week, a spectator was ejected from a tennis match at the tournament after German player Alexander Zverev accused the man of quoting a phrase from Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Jolie Lash, ABC News, 8 Sep. 2023 Others are older and hope to extend their athletic careers after thwarted attempts to play professionally in Aussie rules football or rugby. Jeré Longman, New York Times, 7 Sep. 2023 These surprising decisions by USC, Oregon, Washington and others thwarted efforts to save the conference. Chuck Schilken, Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep. 2023 The American Federation for Children -- founded by Betsy DeVos, who was secretary of education in the Trump administration -- poured more than $500,000 into a group set up to thwart the petition initiative. Margery A. Beck The Associated Press, Arkansas Online, 31 Aug. 2023 North Korea’s state media said Tuesday that leader Kim Jong Un called for the military to be constantly ready for combat to thwart plans by its rivals to invade. Hyung-Jin Kim, Chicago Tribune, 30 Aug. 2023
States had been using that federal aid to cut down on wait times for jobless benefits, thwart identity theft and replace computer systems that in some cases were more than half a century old — the very lapses that the GAO has identified as risk factors for fraud. Tony Romm, Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2023 After boycotting Ticketmaster on his last tour to try to keep prices reasonable and thwart scalpers, Bryan returned to the service on Wednesday. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 8 Sep. 2023
The Justice Department argues in a federal antitrust suit that Google is a dominant tech company that has abused its market power to bully industry partners, protect its monopoly and thwart competition. Steve Lohr, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2023 Carlos De Oliveira was added last week to the indictment with Trump and the former president’s valet, Walt Nauta, in the federal case alleging a plot to illegally keep top-secret records at Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, estate and thwart government efforts to retrieve them. Adriana Gomez Licon and Alanna Durkin Richer,, 31 July 2023 But when that other person tries to impede the investigation, obstruct the investigation, thwart investigators by counseling attorneys to lie, by trying to destroy security camera footage, that helps illuminate that person's intent. Nbc Universal, NBC News, 30 July 2023 Conair Double Ceramic Ionic Hair Dryer, $20 (Save 43%) $35 $20 This Conair hair dryer has double ceramic plates that fight frizz, thwart damage, and create more shine. Amy Schulman, Peoplemag, 10 July 2023 Israel says the raids are meant to crack down on Palestinians militants and thwart attacks. Majdi Mohammed,, 4 July 2023 An outfitter named Craig had rented me the 15-foot canoe with a broken thwart, splintering gunwales, and the tanker toilet. Florence Williams, Outside Online, 1 Feb. 2022 Serving as captain of the maintop of the U.S.S. Pawnee in the attack upon Mathias Point, 26 June 1861, Williams told his men, while lying off in the boat, that every man must die on his thwart sooner than leave a man behind. Drew Broach | Staff Writer,, 10 Nov. 2020 The center yoke thwart is perfectly balanced for one-person portages. The Editors, Outside Online, 18 May 2018 See More

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 22 Sep. 2023.

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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