What Does Hit a Snag Mean?

Hit a Snag Meaning

Definition: To experience a difficulty while carrying out a plan.

A variation of this phrase is to run into a snag.

Origin of Hit a Snag

The word snag dates back to the 1500s and comes from the Old Norse word for point or projection. The expression to hit a snag has a literal meaning as well as a figurative one.

Literally, it means to bump into something that impedes one’s progress. An example of this would be a boat hitting a tree that fell into the river. The oarsman would have to dislodge the boat from the tree in order to continue.

The figurative usage started appearing in the 1900s. People commonly use it when they face an unexpected problem in the execution of a plan. It often refers to a small, fixable problem. However, sometimes people use it to downplay a much more serious problem.

Examples of Hit a Snag

ran into a snag definitionHere is an example of two family members using the expression while at home.

Grandmother: Do you remember that surprise birthday party we’ve been planning for your mother and father’s 20th wedding anniversary?

Granddaughter: Of course! We work on it almost every day. We’re almost totally done planning it. Why?

Grandmother: We’ve hit a snag.

Granddaughter: What do you mean?

Grandmother: Well we already paid for the catering and event hall for that day, and we can’t get our money back. However, your parents booked a flight for a romantic getaway that whole weekend. If they leave during when we scheduled their party, we can’t afford to reschedule it for another day.

hit a snag synonymThe second dialogue shows a father and his daughter discussing the science project the daughter is working on for school.

Daughter: I had the worst day at school today.

Father: Why? What happened?

Daughter: I hit a snag with that big science project I’ve been working on. I just found out that last year someone already did this same project. The teacher will think I was copying him, so I have to pick a totally new project and start over from scratch.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about police officers using x-rays to find illegal drugs.

  • He spotted and stopped the car, but after getting the go-ahead to search it, his hunt for hiding spots hit a snag: He wasn’t sure he was seeing indicators of a false compartment or trap door. –Houston Chronicle

This excerpt is from an article about a program for 911 emergencies.

  • He said he recently discussed the program with Clausen because HPD wanted to hold a news conference about the program. Those plans hit a snag when the department learned its dispatchers, who work out of the Houston Emergency Center, don’t have access to the profiles. –Houston Chronicle


The idiom hit a snag means to encounter an obstacle.