against, in the way

Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The English prefix ob- usually means “against, in the way” or “towards.” An example of ob- when it means “towards” is the word obligation, or a tying of some duty “towards” you; in the case of ob- meaning “against” or “in the way,” the word obstacle" refers to that which stands “against” you, “in the way” of proceeding from point A to point B.

"Ob-" No Longer Against or Un"toward"

Today we will focus on the English prefix ob-, which can mean “against, in the way” or “towards.” This podcast will certainly not act “against” you as an obstacle to your understanding of ob-, but rather you will observe many helpful words which will aid you in moving “towards” an understanding “ob-” it!

Let’s opt first for a discussion of when the prefix ob- means “against, in the way.” You have probably met some obstacles in your life, or those things which stood “in the way” of what you wanted to do; say, for instance, that you suddenly found yourself on the planet Mars. You assuredly objected loudly at first about that, or threw your voice “against” or “in the way” of being so far away from home. You would have probably found that the worst obstruction to getting home, or that which was piled up “against” you or “in your way,” was the 150 million or so miles of empty space between you and planet Earth. Hopefully you would have perceived an obvious solution to that problem, or one that was so “in your way” that you could easily observe it …. such as a very large and fast Martian spaceship sitting nearby in the red sand!

Not to be outdone by ob- meaning “against, in the way” is ob- when it means “towards.” You’ve found the spaceship, having observed or noticed it being “toward” your line of sight. Alas, you don’t like to obtrude or push yourself “towards” others, as you consider it to be obnoxious, or sending harm of sorts “towards” another person. Fortunately you soon begin to think more objectively, that is, throwing the facts only of your dire situation “towards” asking for help, forgetting about those subjective misgivings that arise from within you. The Martians are glad to take you back to Earth, for which you feel a lasting obligation, or a binding “towards” them for helping you. You promise to be obliging towards them in the future should they ever need your help, that is, you are bound “towards” helping them should the need arise.

I believe that I need no longer lob any more examples of ob- “towards” you, for they might get “in the way” of enjoying the rest of your day; far be it from me to put you under such an obnoxious obligation!

  1. obstacle: that which stands “in the way” or “against” someone
  2. object: talking thrown “against” or “in the way” of a suggestion
  3. obstruction: that which is piled “against” someone or “in the way” of him
  4. obvious: of being so “in the way” that it’s easily perceived
  5. observe: to see something that is “towards” your line of sight
  6. obtrude: a pushing “towards” something
  7. obnoxious: of sending harm “towards” someone else
  8. objective: of throwing only facts “towards” thinking about something
  9. obligation: being “tied” to someone or something
  10. obliging: feeling bound “towards” helping someone


  • obviate

    To obviate a problem is to eliminate it or do something that makes solving the problem unnecessary.

  • obsolescent

    If something is obsolescent, it is slowly becoming no longer needed because something newer or more effective has been invented.

  • obverse

    Something is obverse when it is facing or turned towards the observer, such as the facing side of a coin.

  • obstacle

    An obstacle is something that gets in your way or stops you from doing something.

  • obvious

    Something obvious is easy to see or simple to understand.

  • obstruct

    hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of

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