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verb (used with object)
  1. to stop, slow down, or hinder the growth or development of; dwarf: A harsh climate stunted the trees. Brutal treatment in childhood stunted his personality.
  1. a stop or hindrance in growth or development.
  2. arrested development.
  3. a plant or animal hindered from attaining its proper growth.
  4. Plant Pathology. a disease of plants, characterized by a dwarfing or stunting of the plant.

Origin of stunt1

1575–85; v. use of dial. stunt dwarfed, stubborn (Middle English; Old English: stupid); cognate with Middle High German stunz, Old Norse stuttr short; akin to stint1
Related formsstunt·ing·ly, adverbstunt·y, adjective


  1. a performance displaying a person's skill or dexterity, as in athletics; feat: an acrobatic stunt.
  2. any remarkable feat performed chiefly to attract attention: The kidnapping was said to be a publicity stunt.
verb (used without object)
  1. to do a stunt or stunts.
  2. Television Slang. to add specials, miniseries, etc., to a schedule of programs, especially so as to increase ratings.
verb (used with object)
  1. to use in doing stunts: to stunt an airplane.

Origin of stunt2

An Americanism dating back to 1890–95; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stunts

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He does not try to do stunts; and, above all, he does not care to go in swimming.

  • Den a yeller rat got gay wid me an' did some stunts on me windlass.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Finally they sat down in a big circle on the grass and had “stunts.”

    Betty Wales Senior

    Margaret Warde

  • I did push-ups and bridges and other stunts until I was bored again.

    Highways in Hiding

    George Oliver Smith

  • I had had enough of seeing a girl do stunts that stopped my blood.

    The La Chance Mine Mystery

    Susan Carleton Jones

British Dictionary definitions for stunts


  1. (tr) to prevent or impede the growth or development of (a plant, animal, etc)
  1. the act or an instance of stunting
  2. a person, animal, or plant that has been stunted
Derived Formsstunted, adjectivestuntedness, noun

Word Origin

C17 (as vb: to check the growth of): perhaps from C15 stont of short duration, from Old English stunt simple, foolish; sense probably influenced by Old Norse stuttr short in stature, dwarfed


  1. an acrobatic, dangerous, or spectacular action
  2. an acrobatic or dangerous piece of action in a film or television programme
  3. anything spectacular or unusual done to gain publicity
  1. (intr) to perform a stunt or stunts

Word Origin

C19: US student slang, of unknown origin
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

Word Origin and History for stunts



"check in growth, dwarf," 1650s, verb use of Middle English adjective stunnt "foolish," from Old English stunt "short-witted, foolish" (cf. stuntspræc "foolish talk"), from Proto-Germanic *stuntaz (cf. Old Norse stuttr "short"), from the root of stump. Related: Stunted; stunting.



"feat to attract attention," 1878, American English college sports slang, of uncertain origin. Speculated to be a variant of colloq. stump "dare, challenge" (1871), or of German stunde, literally "hour." The movie stunt man is attested from 1930.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper