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[ob-stuh-kuh l] /ˈɒb stə kəl/
something that obstructs or hinders progress.
Origin of obstacle
1300-50; Middle English < Old French < Latin obstāculum, equivalent to obstā(re) to face, block, hinder (ob- ob- + stāre to stand) + -culum -cle2
Obstacle, obstruction, hindrance, impediment refer to something that interferes with or prevents action or progress. An obstacle is something, material or nonmaterial, that stands in the way of literal or figurative progress: Lack of imagination is an obstacle to one's advancement. An obstruction is something that more or less completely blocks a passage: A blood clot is an obstruction to the circulation. A hindrance keeps back by interfering and delaying: Interruptions are a hindrance to one's work. An impediment interferes with proper functioning: an impediment in one's speech.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for obstacle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He made a brief gesture, like one wiping an obstacle out of the way.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • That was the entering wedge—the mention of an obstacle to overcome.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • It has been raised from the rank of a fiction to the dignity of an obstacle.

    Alarms and Discursions G. K. Chesterton
  • I had to be dragged away, but I am soon myself again when confronted by an obstacle.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • After overcoming every obstacle, he had the satisfaction of reaping the reward of his enterprise.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
British Dictionary definitions for obstacle


a person or thing that opposes or hinders something
(Brit) a fence or hedge used in showjumping
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin obstāculum, from obstāre, from ob- against + stāre to stand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for obstacle

mid-14c., from Old French obstacle, ostacle "opposition, obstruction, hindrance" (13c.) or directly from Latin obstaculum "a hindrance, obstacle," with instrumental suffix *-tlom + obstare "stand before, stand opposite to, block, hinder, thwart," from ob "against" (see ob-) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet).

The lover thinks more often of reaching his mistress than the husband of guarding his wife; the prisoner thinks more often of escaping than the gaoler of shutting his door; and so, whatever the obstacles may be, the lover and the prisoner ought to succeed. [Stendhal, "Charterhouse of Parma"]
Obstacle course is attested from 1891.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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