What does the idiom "come to a standstill" mean?

The expression come to a standstill is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the come to a standstill idiom.

Meaning of "come to a standstill"


The idiom “come to a standstill” is used to describe a situation in which progress or activity halts, stops or slows down significantly. It is used when describing any type of progression, from physical movement to the advancement of a project or plan.


The phrase “come to a standstill” has been in use since at least the 16th century. The phrase “standstill” can be traced back to the Middle English word “standstille”, which means “silence” or “cessation of motion”. The phrase “come to a standstill” conjures images of something steadily progressing, only to suddenly freeze and stop abruptly.


The idiom “come to a standstill” is used to describe a situation in which activity or progression has ceased abruptly or slowed down significantly. It is used when discussing any type of progress, be it physical movement or project advancement. It may be used to describe both positive and negative scenarios. For example, it could be used to describe an unexpected positive outcome, such as when a traffic jam comes to a standstill and drivers get to their destinations quickly, or a negative scenario, such as when a project is delayed and comes to a standstill.

Example Sentences

  • “The project came to a standstill when funding was suddenly cut.”
  • “The traffic came to a standstill after the accident.”
  • “The negotiations came to a standstill when both sides could not agree on a compromise.”
  • “The campaign came to a standstill when the candidate dropped out of the race.”

The meanings of the words in the "come to a standstill" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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