Know how to use "fewer" and "less"? Find out.


[ob-stuh-kuh l] /ˈɒb stə kəl/
something that obstructs or hinders progress.
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.
help. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for obstacles
  • Despite these obstacles, the campaign against polio has made immense progress.
  • The device also has a hand brake, for maneuvering around obstacles.
  • But the biggest obstacles to energetic, coherent action are systemic.
  • Intervening obstacles influence the pattern of migration.
  • We wanted to view the landscape through the eyes of the pronghorn and see the obstacles that the pronghorn see.
  • Those obstacles turned out to be a portent of the horrific tragedy that would follow.
  • Salmon face a daunting array of obstacles on the river.
  • Other potential escape routes pose similarly daunting obstacles for those tempted to flee.
  • After all, bike-sharing schemes address only some of the obstacles to urban cycling.
  • Several teams of researchers are developing technologies to roll over these obstacles.
British Dictionary definitions for obstacles


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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for obstacles



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
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for obstacle

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for obstacles

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with obstacles