Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One that opposes, stands in the way of, or holds up progress.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Something that impedes, stands in the way of, or holds up progress

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. That which stands in the way, or opposes; anything that hinders progress; a hindrance; an obstruction, physical or moral.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. That which opposes or stands in the way; something that obstructs progress; a hindrance or obstruction.
  • n. Objection; opposition.
  • n. Synonyms Difficulty, Obstacle, Obstruction, Impediment, check, barrier. A difficulty embarrasses, an obstacle stops us. We remove [or overcome] the one, we surmount the other. Generally the first expresses something arising from the nature and circumstances of the affair; the second something arising from a foreign cause. An obstruction blocks the passage, and is generally put in the way intentionally. An impediment literally clogs the feet and so may continue with one, hindering his progress, while a difficulty once overcome, an obstacle once surmounted, or an obstruction once broken down, leaves one free to go forward without hindrance.
  • Obstinate; stubborn.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted
  • n. an obstruction that stands in the way (and must be removed or surmounted or circumvented)

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin obstāculum, from obstāre, to hinder : ob-, against; see ob- + stāre, to stand; see stā- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French obstacle. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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