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
  1. noun
    something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress
    synonyms: 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
  2. noun
    any structure that makes progress difficult
    synonyms: 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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