An impediment is anything that slows or blocks progress. It can refer to a physical thing, like a fallen tree in the road, or something more intangible, like how your short stature is an impediment to becoming a professional basketball player.

See the pedi in there? Pedi means "feet" and hundreds of years ago, the word impediment referred to shackling one's feet. Now its use has broadened considerably. An impediment is something that blocks or impedes your path. There's no end to the things in your life that can be considered impediments: your small bank account, your terrible childhood, your country's economic malaise — any one of these could be considered an impediment in your quest for happiness.

Definitions of impediment

n something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress

balk, baulk, check, deterrent, handicap, hinderance, hindrance
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albatross, millstone
(figurative) something that hinders or handicaps
something that hinders as if with bonds
diriment impediment
(canon law) an impediment that invalidates a marriage (such as the existence of a prior marriage)
something that slows or delays progress
obstacle, obstruction
something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted
anything immaterial that severely hinders or confines
barrier, roadblock
any condition that makes it difficult to make progress or to achieve an objective
hang-up, hitch, rub, snag
an unforeseen obstacle
an obstacle that you are expected to overcome
stymie, stymy
a thwarting and distressing situation
Type of:
a factor causing trouble in achieving a positive result or tending to produce a negative result

n any structure that makes progress difficult

impedimenta, obstructer, obstruction, obstructor
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an obstruction (usually metal) placed at the top of a goal
a structure or object that impedes free movement
something that prevents access or progress
block, blockage, closure, occlusion, stop, stoppage
an obstruction in a pipe or tube
encumbrance, hinderance, hindrance, hitch, incumbrance, interference, preventative, preventive
any obstruction that impedes or is burdensome
an obstruction that stands in the way (and must be removed or surmounted or circumvented)
a movable obstruction in a lock that must be adjusted to a given position (as by a key) before the bolt can be thrown
balusters, balustrade, banister, bannister, handrail
a railing at the side of a staircase or balcony to prevent people from falling
a barrier (usually thrown up hastily) to impede the advance of an enemy
breakwater, bulwark, groin, groyne, jetty, mole, seawall
a protective structure of stone or concrete; extends from shore into the water to prevent a beach from washing away
breech closer, breechblock
a metal block in breech-loading firearms that is withdrawn to insert a cartridge and replaced to close the breech before firing
a fencelike structure around a ship's deck (usually plural)
any object that acts as a hindrance or obstruction
crash barrier
a strong protective barrier that is erected around a racetrack or in the middle of a dual-lane highway in order to reduce the likelihood of severe accidents
dam, dike, dyke
a barrier constructed to contain the flow of water or to keep out the sea
fence, fencing
a barrier that serves to enclose an area
fender, wing
a barrier that surrounds the wheels of a vehicle to block splashing water or mud
grate, grating
a barrier that has parallel or crossed bars blocking a passage but admitting air
an obstacle on a golf course
a light movable barrier that competitors must leap over in certain races
lever, lever tumbler
a flat metal tumbler in a lever lock
movable barrier
a barrier that can be moved to allow passage
pin, pin tumbler
cylindrical tumblers consisting of two parts that are held in place by springs; when they are aligned with a key the bolt can be thrown
plug, stopper, stopple
blockage consisting of an object designed to fill a hole tightly
rail, railing
a barrier consisting of a horizontal bar and supports
a barrier against explosives
barricade, roadblock
a barrier set up by police to stop traffic on a street or road in order to catch a fugitive or inspect traffic etc.
speed bump
a hindrance to speeding created by a crosswise ridge in the surface of a roadway
starting gate, starting stall
a movable barrier on the starting line of a race course
stumbling block
any obstacle or impediment
vapor lock, vapour lock
a stoppage in a pipeline caused by gas bubbles (especially a stoppage that develops in hot weather in an internal-combustion engine when fuel in the gas line boils and forms bubbles that block the flow of gasoline to the carburetor)
water jump
a pool or stream in a steeplechase or similar contest
Type of:
construction, structure
a thing constructed; a complex entity constructed of many parts

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