seize up


Come to a halt, as in The peace talks seized up and were not rescheduled. Originally, from about 1870 on, this term was applied to a machine of some kind that jammed or locked, owing to excessive heat or friction. Its figurative use dates from about 1950.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.