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  1. Chess. a position of the pieces in which a player cannot move any piece except the king and cannot move the king without putting it in check.
  2. any position or situation in which no action can be taken or progress made; deadlock: Talks between union and management resulted in a stalemate.
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verb (used with object), stale·mat·ed, stale·mat·ing.
  1. to subject to a stalemate.
  2. to bring to a standstill.
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verb (used without object), stale·mat·ed, stale·mat·ing.
  1. to be or result in a stalemate or standoff: Negotiations stalemated when new salary demands were introduced.
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Origin of stalemate

1755–65; late Middle English stale stalemate (whence Anglo-French estale) (apparently special use of stale1) + mate2
Related formsun·stale·mat·ed, adjective

Synonyms for stalemate

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for stalemate

delay, impasse, standstill, gridlock, standoff, tie, draw, pause, check, arrest, catch-22

Examples from the Web for stalemate

Contemporary Examples of stalemate

Historical Examples of stalemate

  • He seems to have reached a psychological impasse or stalemate.

  • "But it looks as though the best we can do is to stalemate," Bradley argued.


    Edward Elmer Smith

  • Although, it is rather near a stalemate for us both, isn't it?

    The Thing from the Lake

    Eleanor M. Ingram

  • However, at least for the moment, he had reached a stalemate.

    Trading Jeff and his Dog

    James Arthur Kjelgaard

  • "But it looks as though the best we can do is a stalemate," Bradley argued.


    Edward Elmer Smith

British Dictionary definitions for stalemate


  1. a chess position in which any of a player's possible moves would place his king in check: in this position the game ends in a draw
  2. a situation in which two opposing forces find that further action is impossible or futile; deadlock
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  1. (tr) to subject to a stalemate
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Word Origin for stalemate

C18: from obsolete stale, from Old French estal stall 1 + mate ²
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 stalemate


1765, in chess, from stale "stalemate" (early 15c.) + mate (n.2) "checkmate." Middle English stale is probably from Anglo-French estale "standstill" (see stall (n.2)). A misnomer, because a stale is not a mate. "In England from the 17th c. to the beginning of the 19th c. the player who received stalemate won the game" [OED]. Figurative sense is recorded from 1885.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper