Submitted by spencer on October 18, 2010

Stymie and stifle

How popular is the word stymie? Is it possible that it derives from the word stifle?

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I just did a quick search on Dictionary.com and it seems to corroborate Chris B's answer. Good job!

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"stifle late 14c., "to choke, suffocate, drown," of
uncertain origin, possibly an alteration of O.Fr.
estouffer "to stifle, smother," which may be from
a Gmc. source (cf. O.H.G. stopfon "to plug up,
stuff"). Metaphoric sense is from 1570s."

As Chris says, "stymie" has a different root to the above.

Andy.

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I'm fairly sure the word "stymie" derives from an obsolete rule in golf: if your ball was on the green and another ball was blocking its path to the hole, that was just tough. You had to go round it, chip over it (?) or something. By extension "stymie" has been applied to anything stopping you from doing things.
Most often I hear the word used as a verb: "I've just had an operation and won't be able to drive for a few weeks. I feel completely stymied."

Interestingly a stymie in golf is very similar to a snooker in, well, snooker, and the usage of both words has been extended in a very similar way.

So "stymie" is similar in meaning to "stifle" but I doubt they come from the same root. I may be wrong about this however.

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