or stand-off

[ stand-awf, -of ]
/ ˈstændˌɔf, -ˌɒf /
Save This Word!

Definition of standoff

a standing off or apart; aloofness.
a tie or draw, as in a game.
something that counterbalances.
a prop for holding the top of a ladder away from the vertical surface against which it is leaning.
Electricity. an insulator that supports a conductor above a surface.
standing off or apart; aloof; reserved: an uncordial and standoff manner.
Apostrophes can be tricky; prove you know the difference between "it’s" and "its" in this crafty quiz!
Question 1 of 8
On the farm, the feed for chicks is significantly different from the roosters’; ______ not even comparable.

Origin of standoff

First recorded in 1830–40; noun, adj. use of verb phrase stand off
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does standoff mean?

A standoff is a situation in which no progress can be made or people are prevented from taking further action. Close synonyms are stalemate and deadlock.

Such a standoff often involves two or more opposing sides that refuse to budge, back down, or change their position. A political standoff is one in which both sides refuse to come to an agreement or compromise on some policy or course of action. In the context of policing, the word standoff refers to a situation in which a person refuses to be arrested but is keeping police away by threatening violence.

In movies, the tense moment when two characters are pointing weapons at each other and waiting for the other to make a move is often called a standoff.

Standoff can also refer to what happens when a game or other competition ends in a tie or without a winner being declared.

Much less commonly, standoff can be used as an adjective to mean aloof, reserved, or unfriendly, as in The hostess greeted us in a distant, standoff manner. The adjective standoffish is more commonly used to mean the same thing.

Standoff is sometimes hyphenated, as stand-off.

Example: The old enemies stared at each other in a tense standoff, both of them refusing to give an inch.

Where does standoff come from?

The first records of the term standoff come from the 1830s. It comes from the verb phrase stand off, which means to maintain a distance or to reach a stalemate.

The word standoff is often used in the context of tense or seemingly hopeless situations in which two opposing sides are not willing to negotiate or change their positions even a little. It’s especially used in the contexts of politics and policing.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to standoff?

  • stand-off (alternate, hyphenated spelling)

What are some synonyms for standoff?

What are some words that share a root or word element with standoff

What are some words that often get used in discussing standoff?

How is standoff used in real life?

Standoff is especially used in the contexts of politics and policing.



Try using standoff!

Is standoff used correctly in the following sentence?

It was a close match, and it ended in a standoff, with neither side being able to secure victory.

How to use standoff in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for standoff

/ (ˈstændˌɒf) /

verb stand off (adverb)
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with standoff

stand off


Stay at a distance, remain apart, as in Carol stood off from the others. [First half of 1600s] This usage gave rise to the adjective standoffish for “aloof” or “reserved in a haughty way.”


Put off, keep away, as in The police stood off the angry strikers. [Second half of 1800s]

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