A setback is a temporary or permanent obstacle or difficulty that hinders progress or success. It refers to an unexpected disruption or failure that causes delays, setbacks, or hindrances in achieving a desired goal or outcome.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



obstacle, hindrance, complication, problem, difficulty, adversity, drawback, impediment, stumbling block, barrier, delay


advantage, progress, success, advancement, breakthrough

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun setbacks, setback
Verb set_back
Adjective None
Adverb None

Example Sentences

  • After months of hard work, the unexpected financial setback threatened to undermine the entire project.

  • Despite facing numerous setbacks along the way, she remained determined and ultimately accomplished her goals.

  • The company experienced a major setback when their main supplier unexpectedly went out of business.

  • The team’s loss in the first game was a setback, but they used it as motivation to come back stronger in the next match.


The word “setback” originated from the combination of the word “set” and the suffix “-back.” The root “set” refers to establishing or placing something in a particular position, while the suffix “-back” implies reversal or moving to a previous state. The combination of these elements gives “setback” its meaning of hindrance or obstacle that causes a regression or delay in progress.

The term “setback” is commonly used in various contexts to denote instances where progress or success is impeded by unforeseen circumstances. It is often applied in personal, professional, and even societal settings. In personal contexts, setbacks can refer to challenges faced by individuals in achieving their goals or aspirations. This can include setbacks in education, career, relationships, or personal development. In professional contexts, setbacks can arise in business ventures, project management, or career advancement, hindering the desired outcomes.

Moreover, setbacks can also refer to setbacks in societal matters, such as setbacks in social progress, technological advancements, or political reforms. These setbacks are often perceived as obstacles towards achieving broader goals or societal benefits.

The word “setback” can also be used with various prefixes, such as “major setback,” “minor setback,” or “temporary setback,” to specify the magnitude or duration of the hindrance. These prefixes help to provide additional information and clarify the impact or nature of the setback being described.

Overall, the usage of “setback” is integral in describing obstacles, difficulties, or failures that hinder progress or success. It allows individuals, organizations, and societies to reflect on challenges faced and consider ways to overcome them or reevaluate their strategies. By acknowledging setbacks, individuals can learn from their experiences, adapt their approaches, and strive for continued growth and achievement.