Also found in: Thesaurus, Encyclopedia.
Related to thwarting: unfazed, immensity, incongruity


tr.v. thwart·ed, thwart·ing, thwarts
1. To prevent the occurrence, realization, or attainment of: They thwarted her plans.
2. To oppose and defeat the efforts, plans, or ambitions of (someone).
1. A seat across a boat on which a rower may sit.
2. A transverse strut in a canoe or other small boat.
1. Extending, lying, or passing across; transverse.
2. Eager to oppose, especially wrongly; perverse.
adv. & prep. Archaic
Athwart; across.

[Middle English thwerten, from thwert, across, from Old Norse thvert, neuter of thverr, transverse; see terkw- in Indo-European roots.]

thwart′er n.
thwart′ly adv.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




clip [someone’s] wings To cripple someone’s efforts to reach a goal; to incapacitate; to undermine, directly or indirectly, another’s ability to achieve his aspirations. Figurative use of this phrase alludes to the idea that a bird cannot fly with clipped wings. The phrase has been current since its early use in the late 16th century.

Away to prison with him! I’ll clip his wings. (Christopher Marlowe, The Massacre at Paris, 1590)

cook [someone’s] goose To destroy someone’s chances totally and irrevocably; to do someone in or ruin it for someone; to put the kibosh on someone’s hopes or plans. The popular and amusing but implausible story offered as the source of this phrase has to do with King Eric of Sweden and his soldiers, who were not taken seriously when they arrived to capture a town. The townspeople ridiculed the King by hanging out a goose for the soldiers to shoot at. Upon realizing the real threat posed by the King, the people sent someone to negotiate a settlement with him. When asked his intentions, the King replied, “to cook your goose.”

The OED cites a mid-19th-century street ballad as the earliest printed use of the phrase:

If they come here we’ll cook their goose
The Pope and Cardinal Wiseman.

This doggerel expressed England’s opposition to Pope Pius’s attempt to reassert the power of the Catholic Church in England through the appointment of the English Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman.

cramp [someone’s] style To inhibit another’s freedom of expression or action; to make someone feel ill-at-ease and self-conscious; to have a dampening effect on another’s spirits. The person who “cramps another’s style” usually does so by his mere presence or the attitudes he embodies, rather than by explicit word or overt action. Impersonal forces such as rules or procedures can also cramp a person’s style.

lay by the heels To limit or thwart a person’s power or influence; to negate the credibility of a once influential person; to imprison or otherwise confine a person. This expression alludes to stocks, the once common instruments of punishment which were made of a framework with holes for securing the ankles (and sometimes the wrists). An offender locked in the stocks was frequently subjected to public derision, abuse, and humiliation as part of the punishment. Thus, to lay by the heels is to shackle someone, either literally or figuratively, thereby reducing or eliminating his influence.

put a spoke in [someone’s] wheel To interfere, obstruct, or impede the progress of; to frustrate or thwart. This expression, dating from the 16th century, is said to derive from the practice of thrusting a pin or spoke into a hole on a solid wheel to serve as a break and slow down the vehicle. Current confusion over this expression arises because many kinds of wheels are now made with spokes and it is difficult to conceive of a spoke preventing a wheel from turning.

Capitalists … were trying to put a spoke in the wheel of Socialism. (Manchester Examiner, July 1885)

put the kibosh on To render ineffective or nonfunctional; to squelch or quash; to put an end to, to dispose of; to put out of countenance. The origin of this expression is obscure. It has been conjectured that kibosh comes from the Irish cie bais ‘cap of death.’ The OED, however, does not support this hypothesis, but suggests that the phrase has Yiddish or Anglo-Hebraic origins.

The directive puts the kibosh on one of the few potentially valuable efforts that the United States has been making in the field of psychological warfare. (R. H. Rovere, cited in Webster’s Third)

Application of this expression is not limited to ideas and activities, but extends to persons as well, as evidenced by the following citation from C. Roberts’ Adrift in America (1891):

It was attending one of these affairs which finally put the “kibosh”on me.

put the whammy on To jinx or hex; to give the evil eye, to mesmerize; to render speechless, to incapacitate; to overpower, ruin, or destroy. The whammy is a gesture or object whose magical properties cast a curse on its victim. As a term it was probably derived ono-matopoeically from the sound made by the gesture of “whamming” the fist into the palm. Its popularity stems from the well-known “Li’l Abner” comic strip by Al Capp in which Eagle Eye Feegle’s one-eye stare was dubbed “the whammy.” Two eyes made it a double whammy.

So what’s put the whammy on the National Science Foundation bill? (H. Alexander, The Bulletin [Philadelphia], September, 1949)

spike [someone’s] gun To thwart someone’s possibilities for success; to hamper or prevent someone from reaching a goal. This expression is derived from the practice of driving a spike into the vent of a gun, thus rendering it inoperable. The expression maintains contemporary use.

steal [someone’s] thunder To reduce or negate the effect of an argument, performance, remark, etc., by anticipating it; to thwart, frustrate, or forestall; to use as one’s own the ideas, inventions, or techniques of another. This expression is credited to John Dennis (1657-1734), a playwright who developed a new technique for producing stage thunder and used it in his ill-fated and short-lived opus, Appius and Virginia. Some time later, upon hearing his “thunder” used in a performance of Macbeth, Dennis cried out, “Damn them!… They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder!”

Harry Truman is no man to let Congress steal his political thunder. (Time, May, 1950)

take the teeth out of To render harmless or ineffective; to deprive of strength or power. Teeth are basic for nourishment, attack, or defense. Figuratively the word teeth refers to any effective means of accomplishment or compulsion, as in the following Webster’s Third citation:

… reluctant to pass legislation with teeth regarding this issue. (T. L. Reller)

An Aesop’s fable also cited as a possible source of this expression tells of a lion in love with a maiden who told him to pull his teeth and trim his claws, after which he was easily overpowered. Take theteeth out of is currently used almost exclusively of legislation.

take the wind out of [someone’s] sails To destroy a person’s self-confidence by effectively invalidating his argument, stand, or convictions; to frustrate or thwart; to put a pin in someone’s balloon. The expression is an expansion of the earlier nautical phrase to take the wind of ‘to sail windward of another ship so as to intercept the wind.’

A young upstart of a rival, Llanelly … which nas taken a great deal of the wind out of the sails of its older neighbor. (Harper’s Magazine, February, 1883)

throw a monkey wrench into the works To interfere with the smooth operation of things, to upset plans or impede their progress; sometimes to sabotage or undermine deliberately; also, especially British, to throw a spanner into the works. The allusion is probably to the chaotic effect such a literal act of sabotage would have on machinery. The American expression dates from at least 1920.

It would throw another big monkey wrench into the already wobbly Japanese economy. (The Christian Science Monitor, January, 1947)

throw cold water on To discourage, to have a damping effect upon; to disparage or put down; to put the kibosh on. Cold connotes the antithesis of all that is vital, enthusiastic, and passionate. Thus, to throw cold water on one’s ambitions, ideas, or projects is to have a deadening effect, to be unsupportive in attitude or action.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.thwarting - an act of hindering someone's plans or efforts
interference, hinderance, hindrance - the act of hindering or obstructing or impeding
Adj.1.thwarting - preventing realization or attainment of a desire
preventative, preventive - tending to prevent or hinder
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in classic literature ?
Half the town would almost take trouble for the sake of thwarting him.
All his life he had thwarted her, stolen from her, used her as one could not use even a hired hand, worked her more as a slave-driver hurries his underlings that profits may mount; now, by her mere existence, she was thwarting him.
Caption: Postal packages of Khat- press photo CAIRO -- 7 April 2019: Two days after thwarting an attempt of smuggling more than 2 tons of drugs, worth LE 2 billion [$115,5 million] on board a ship in the Red Sea, security forces arrested two people trying to smuggle 295 kilograms of Khat, according to a Saturday statement.
The crimes were divided between the arresting of criminals, criminal cells of aggression, organized gangs, thwarting suicide operations, dismantling explosive devices and others.
Dubai: Dubai Customs recently seized five million Captagon pillions weighing 500 kilograms, thwarting yet another attempt to smuggle in large quantities of narcotics.
Newage/Diamond Paints once again proved their mettle in the fourth and last chukker by thwarting two back-to-back field goals through Adnan Jalil to take unassailable 7-3 lead while Dr Faisal hit one in the dying moments of the chukker to finish the match at 7-4.
He added that during the pre-emptive operations of the security forces and the popular crowd seized explosives containing explosives and explosive belts were seized to target the funeral processions of Hussein, indicating that the thwarting of terrorist attempts was based on accurate intelligence./ End
The thwarting of the attack led to the saving of the lives of dozens of innocent people and demonstrated that Unit 8200 is a player in the intelligence war against the Islamic State, the army stated.
The Border Guards' efforts in tracking drug smuggling networks resulted in thwarting several attempts to smuggle hashish in the southern border areas.
Download ISF says it has nothing to do with circulated news about PM Hariri's thwarted assassination attempt, has no information on this matter NNA - In an issued communiqu by the Internal Security Forces' General Directorate following PM Saad Hariri's announced resignation on Saturday, it indicated that "what is being circulated through the media about thwarting an assassination attempt against PM Hariri was not issued by ISF's Information Department." "Therefore, ISF is not the source of these news reports nor does it have any information on this matter," the communiqu added.
Al-Enezi valued the great role played by customs officers in thwarting this attempt.
ae1/4oeThis announcement is a message coinciding with the arrival of the US president's envoys to the region, which indicates that Israel is not interested in US efforts and is serious about thwarting these efforts as it did with previous US administrations,ae1/4Ci he continued.