Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


to stop someone from achieving an aim, or to stop some process from continuing

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The verb stymie was first used in the mid 19th century, a couple of decades after the noun from which it derives. Both were originally golfing terms, of obscure origin; they may come from a Scottish word meaning ‘someone who can’t see well’. The figurative use of the verb dates from the beginning of the 20th century.


In golf, a stymie is a ball that lies on the green in such a way as to prevent an opponent from getting a clear shot at the hole. To stymie an opponent is to place them in such a position. The first recorded use of the noun is in the rules of the Musselburgh golf club in 1834. Faced with such an obstruction, a golfer cannot putt the ball in the usual way but is forced to try and loft it over the obstructing ball. Figuratively, to stymie an opponent is to do something that prevents them from achieving what they set out to do, while to stymie a process is to stop it in its tracks. Typical noun objects of stymie are attempt, effort, progress, growth and investigation.


“There’s so much in the 21st century that is stymied by bureaucracy and mediocrity and committee.”
(Benedict Cumberbatch)

“I love all genres. The only thing I get stymied by is the Family Drama. I don’t necessarily know how to approach that.”
(Joss Whedon)

Related words

scotch, hobble, derail, crimp

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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