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[ob-stuh-kuh l] /ˈɒb stə kəl/
something that obstructs or hinders progress.
Origin of obstacle
1300-50; Middle English < Old French < Latin obstāculum, equivalent to obstā(re) to face, block, hinder (ob- ob- + stāre to stand) + -culum -cle2
Obstacle, obstruction, hindrance, impediment refer to something that interferes with or prevents action or progress. An obstacle is something, material or nonmaterial, that stands in the way of literal or figurative progress: Lack of imagination is an obstacle to one's advancement. An obstruction is something that more or less completely blocks a passage: A blood clot is an obstruction to the circulation. A hindrance keeps back by interfering and delaying: Interruptions are a hindrance to one's work. An impediment interferes with proper functioning: an impediment in one's speech.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for obstacle
  • However, the biggest obstacle to making cellulosic ethanol commercially feasible is the breakdown of cellulose.
  • Depending on the process, replacement of these components can be a significant economic obstacle.
  • Another obstacle to open access, he adds, is that the information is incredibly valuable.
  • His group is working to boost the power output of the films--the main obstacle is the quality of the electrodes.
  • And structural sensors are used in some military jets, where installation cost isn't as much of an obstacle.
  • Algorithms then kick in to reroute robots around the obstacle.
  • Gee, perhaps the fact that none have found a suitable battery for a plug-in might provide a small obstacle.
  • It went against his grain to put any obstacle between his listeners and himself.
  • On the surface, none of these four points appeared to be an insuperable obstacle to some form of peaceful negotiations.
  • The term itself has become an obstacle to understanding.
British Dictionary definitions for obstacle


a person or thing that opposes or hinders something
(Brit) a fence or hedge used in showjumping
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin obstāculum, from obstāre, from ob- against + stāre to stand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for obstacle

mid-14c., from Old French obstacle, ostacle "opposition, obstruction, hindrance" (13c.) or directly from Latin obstaculum "a hindrance, obstacle," with instrumental suffix *-tlom + obstare "stand before, stand opposite to, block, hinder, thwart," from ob "against" (see ob-) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet).

The lover thinks more often of reaching his mistress than the husband of guarding his wife; the prisoner thinks more often of escaping than the gaoler of shutting his door; and so, whatever the obstacles may be, the lover and the prisoner ought to succeed. [Stendhal, "Charterhouse of Parma"]
Obstacle course is attested from 1891.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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