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A basset hound resting on a type of stonewall (sense 4) constructed using the dry-stone method

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English stonwal, stōn-wal, stounwal (wall made of stone), from Old English stānweall, stān-weall,[1] equivalent to stone +‎ wall. The alcoholic drink (sense 3) was perhaps named thus because its effect was as potent as running into a stone wall.[2]


stonewall (plural stonewalls)

  1. (idiomatic) An obstruction.
    • 1899 July 25, Richard John Seddon (Premier of New Zealand), “Old-age Pensions Act”, in New Zealand. Parliamentary Debates. Fourth Session, Thirteenth Parliament. Legislative Council and House of Representatives, volume 107 (Comprising the Period from July 20 to August 10, 1899), Wellington: By authority; John Mackay, government printer, OCLC 248552646, page 112, column 2:
      That was what was causing the Government to hesitate in bringing down the Bill. There would be so many amendments proposed, and so many stonewalls erected, that much time would be occupied, and, that being so, he felt he must go on with other business first.
    • 1957 June, George Langelaan, “The Fly”, in Playboy, Chicago, Ill.: Playboy Enterprises, OCLC 793924297; republished as “The Fly”, in Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan, editors, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, London: Robinson, Constable & Robinson, 2012, →ISBN:
      [] I suddenly realized that here was the opening I had been searching for and perhaps even the possibility of striking a great blow, a blow perhaps powerful enough to shatter her stonewall defence, be it sane or insane.
    • 1985, Richard Holmes, chapter 1, in Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, London: Hodder & Stoughton, →ISBN; republished London: Penguin Books, 1985, →ISBN, part 1 (1964: Travels), page 14:
      Our conversation took place in a sort of no-man's land of irregular French. M. Crèspy's patois and Midi twang battled for meaning against my stonewall classroom phrases.
  2. (idiomatic) A refusal to cooperate.
    • 1923 February 17, William Ferguson Massey (Prime Minister of New Zealand), “Order of Business”, in New Zealand. Parliamentary Debates. First Session, Twenty-first Parliament. Legislative Council and House of Representatives, volume 199 (Comprising the Period from February 7 to February 17, 1923), Wellington: By authority; W. A. G. Skinner, government printer, OCLC 248552646, page 362, column 1:
      If it was in order to use the word "stonewalling," I would say your stonewall has come to an end; but it is not in order. I would suggest that we bring the proceedings to an end decently, and if the obstruction is not to go on, then I think the proper thing for me to do is to move the ordinary motion, that the House do now adjourn, and let it go without any further talk.
    • 2017, Elodia Strain, chapter 15, in The Dating Experiment, Springville, Utah: Sweetwater Books, Cedar Fort, Inc., →ISBN:
      "Okay," I said sarcastically, while inside wondering what she was picking up on. / "Anyway," she said, sensing my stonewall, "I was just checking out the Pine Needlers' Facebook Page again, and you guys are killing it. Killing it with kindness as they say."
  3. (idiomatic, historical) An alcoholic drink popular in colonial America, consisting of apple cider (or sometimes applejack) mixed with rum (or sometimes gin or whisky).
    • 1868 March 17, James McGrigor Allan, “Europeans, and Their Descendants in North America”, in Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, volume VI, London: Trübner & Co., 60, Paternoster Row, OCLC 60577302, page cxxxvi:
      [W]e are at a loss to "calculate" the ingredients which enter into such mysterious compounds as "apple-jack," "white nose," "stonewall," chain-lightning," "railroad," "rattle-snake," "back-straightener," "corpse-reviver," "moral suasion," "bottomless-pit," "sabbath-calm," etc.
    • 2014, John J. Duffy; H. Nicholas Muller, III, “Confused Accounts of Ethan Allen’s Death: Later Accounts Compound the Story”, in Inventing Ethan Allen, Lebanon, N.H.: University Press of New England, →ISBN, page 12:
      One highly imaginative account claims the throng told stories through the night in drunken outbursts of wild revelry. As if quoting from a house menu of early American alcoholic drinks, rather than reporting an eyewitness account, this version tells us they "guzzled nobly of punch, of flip, and downed the inevitable stonewalls [a mixture of whiskey or rum and cider]."
    • 2014, Eva-Sabine Zehelein, “‘Been to Barbados’: Rum(bullion), Race, the Gaspée and the American Revolution”, in Susanne Schmid and ‎Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp, editors, Drink in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Perspectives in Economic and Social History; no. 29), London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers, →ISBN; republished Abingdon, Oxon.; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2016, →ISBN, page 144:
      When members of the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia's City Tavern, they [] ordered, one must assume, a broad variety of drinks, such as the mimbo (shavings from a sugarloaf, rum and water), the sling (two parts water to one part rum), the bombo (which uses molasses instead of sugar, rum and water), the punch, or the calibogus (spruce beer and rum), a flip, a blackstrap (a mix with molasses), or a stonewall (a mix with cider).
  4. Alternative form of stone wall (wall made of stone).
    • 1883, Brooksby [pseudonym; Edward Pennell-Elmhirst], “The Bedale”, in The Hunting Countries of England, Their Facilities, Character, and Requirements. A Guide to Hunting Men, volume II (parts IV., V., and VI.), London: Horace Cox, "The Field" Office, 346, Strand, W.C., OCLC 18851653, part IV, page 122:
      The grass looks tempting, and the stonewalls seem built to jump; but the farther west we get, the more rugged become the hillsides and the more broken the beds of the stream, till the scene becomes more akin to the home of the chamois than of the fox. The stonewalls grow higher, stronger, and more frequent, as you rise from the low country and get more fully among the sheepwalks.
    • 1906, John P. Nicholson; Charles A. Richardson; L[unsford] L[indsay] Lomax, “Report of the Gettysburg National Park Commission”, in Annual Reports of the War Department for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1906, volume IV (Milita Affairs; Military Schools and Colleges; and Military Parks), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 311240432, page 312:
      Stonewalls have been rebuilt along the piked portion of Taneytown road, along the east end of North Confederate avenue, and along Taneytown road south of Pleasonton avenue.
    • 2010, Derek Pomeroy Brereton, “Appendix 4: The Old Stone Walls of New Hampshire”, in Campsteading: Family, Place, and Experience at Squam Lake, New Hampshire, Abingdon, Oxon.; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 225:
      In the present day, New England's stonewalls are the lineaments of her former agrarian vitality. They outline what used to be farm roads, fields, barnyards, pens, cellars, dooryards, empoundments, millraces, bridges, culverts, and graves. [] Stonewalls both preserve and evince the structuring presence of the past. They offer weft to the warp of the land.
    • 2011 December 9, Jack Mitchell, chapter 11, in Angels of the Anasazi, Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, →ISBN, page 140:
      Some had suggested that they build sloped stonewalls the entire length of the streambed. The stonewalls would keep the rushing water in a channel and prevent soil from washing away from the streambed walls.
    • 2012, Walter G. Robillard, Clark on Surveying and Boundaries: 2012 Cumulative Supplement[1], 7th edition, Charlottesville, Va.: LexisNexis, →ISBN:
      There are remnants of a stonewall at the elm tree on Burrough Road. The aerial photograph shows the existence of a stonewall at the elm tree at least in 1964.


stonewall (third-person singular simple present stonewalls, present participle stonewalling, simple past and past participle stonewalled)

  1. (transitive) To obstruct.
    • 1876 January–October, “Public Affairs”, in The Melbourne Review, volume 1, Melbourne, Vic.: Samuel Mullen, 55 & 57 Collins Street East, OCLC 894106326, page 244:
      Either the thing to be stonewalled must be itself a bad thing, or it must be stonewalled as the only means of preventing some other wrong being committed; obviously, paying the public creditor was no wrong, and the budget, if wrong, could be effectually obstructed by stonewalling the financial resolutions.
  2. (intransitive, informal) To refuse to answer or cooperate, especially in supplying information.
    At the press conference, the Prime Minister appeared to be stonewalling when asked about tax increases.
    • 1996, Daniel Goleman, “Intimate Enemies”, in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, paperback edition, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, part 3 (Emotional Intelligence Applied), page 141:
      As he becomes defensive or stonewalls in return, she feels frustrated and angry, and so adds contempt to underscore the strength of her frustration. As her husband finds himself the object of his wife's criticism and contempt, he begins to fall into the innocent-victim or righteous-indignation thoughts that more and more easily trigger flooding. To protect himself from flooding, he becomes more and more defensive or simply stonewalls altogether. But when husbands stonewall, remember, it triggers flooding in their wives, who feel completely stymied.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Apparently a corruption of stone cold.


stonewall (not comparable)

  1. (Britain, idiomatic) Certain, definite.
Usage notes[edit]

The word is most often encountered in sports contexts in reference to refereeing decisions.



  1. ^ stōn-wal, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 6 February 2018.
  2. ^ Christine Sismondo (2011), “A Pilgrim Walks into a Bar”, in America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, New York, N.Y.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 11.