a narrow entrance or passageway.
a place or stage in a process at which progress is impeded.
Also called slide guitar. a method of guitar playing that produces a gliding sound by pressing a metal bar or glass tube against the strings.

verb (used with object)

to hamper or confine by or as if by a bottleneck.

verb (used without object)

to become hindered by or as if by a bottleneck.

Origin of bottleneck

First recorded in 1895–1900; bottle1 + neck Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bottleneck

Contemporary Examples of bottleneck

  • When U.S. output started to soar more recently, the bottleneck came early.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Pipelines, Not Rail, Ctd.

    Justin Green

    April 10, 2013

  • Also, because Jobs insists on being involved in all products that Apple ships, he ends up becoming a bottleneck.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Secrets of Succession

    Dan Lyons

    August 26, 2011

  • The seven-year-long bottleneck in Cuba has finally been eased.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Slamming the Door on Gitmo

    Andrew Cohen

    October 21, 2009

Historical Examples of bottleneck

British Dictionary definitions for bottleneck



  1. a narrow stretch of road or a junction at which traffic is or may be held up
  2. the hold up
something that holds up progress, esp of a manufacturing process
  1. the broken-off neck of a bottle placed over a finger and used to produce a buzzing effect in a style of guitar-playing originally part of the American blues tradition
  2. the style of guitar playing using a bottleneck


(tr) US to be or cause an obstruction in
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 bottleneck

also bttle-neck, "narrow entrance, spot where traffic becomes congested," 1896; from bottle (n.) + neck (n.). Meaning "anything which obstructs a flow" is from 1922; the verb in this sense is from 1928.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

bottleneck in Science



An abrupt and severe reduction in the number of individuals during the history of a species, resulting in the loss of diversity from the gene pool. The generations following the bottleneck are more genetically homogenous than would otherwise be expected. Bottlenecks often occur in consequence of a catastrophic event.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

bottleneck in Culture


The point at which an industry or economic system has to slow its growth because one or more of its components cannot keep up with demand.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.