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From Biology-Online Dictionary
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That which stands in the way, or opposes; anything that hinders progress; a hindrance; an obstruction, physical or moral. If all obstacles were cut away. And that my path were even to the crown. (Shak)

Synonym: Impediment, obstruction, hindrance, difficulty. See Impediment, and obstruction.

Origin: f, fr. L. Obstaculum, fr. Obstare to withstand, oppose; ob (see ob-) _ stare to stand. See stand. And cf. Oust.