I'm writing a short paragraph about my city and I want to mention the traffic. I remember there being a word to describe a situation that's even worse than a traffic jam, where vehicles can't move at all and are completely stuck, but I can't remember what it is.

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    – Dan Bron
    Feb 12, 2017 at 17:40
  • You might want to accept Jim's excellent answer (if you do, click on the tick symbol next to his answer). Feb 12, 2017 at 18:42
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    Colloquially it's a carpark.
    – Stephen
    Feb 12, 2017 at 23:57
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    Both the gridlock and standstill answers are good. It's usually called gridlock when the problem is intersecting roads blocking each other, standstill when the problem is simply the total volume of traffic on a single road.
    – Barmar
    Feb 13, 2017 at 18:40
  • The U.S. equivalent of carpark (which Stephen mentions above) is parking lot —and that term is likewise used to describe roads where traffic is at a standstill. Example "I-80 was a parking lot this morning."
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 19, 2017 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


You may be thinking of gridlock
defined by Dictionary.com as:

1. the stoppage of free vehicular movement in an urban area because key intersections are blocked by traffic.
2. the blocking of an intersection by vehicular traffic entering the intersection but unable to pass through it.

Here’s a great picture from timlane.org: photo of traffic gridlock

  • May be intersecting traffic, is the right word to say???
    – user220056
    Feb 13, 2017 at 7:33
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    @user220056: For the picture above (stopped intersecting traffic) the word is deadlock - a condition arising from everyone blocking each other such that none can move unless someone move but since none can move all is locked. Deadlock is also used in other such patterns like politics: two countries are deadlocked on who makes the first move to attack since making such move would doom the attacker, computing: two or more threads or processes can't continue running because each is waiting on the output of the other etc.
    – slebetman
    Feb 13, 2017 at 8:20
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    @slebetman - Here in the UK it is only really described as gridlock - a term commonly heard both in conversation and on radio traffic announcements. It would sound odd to hear the word 'deadlock' when referring to traffic.
    – Bekahland
    Feb 13, 2017 at 13:51
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    All that gridlock could be fixed if that van with the yellow front would just turn right by 3 degrees and drive through the two silver cars, letting the white sedan and the bus follow it...
    – TylerH
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:39
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    Speaking as a New Yorker, we use the term "gridlock" to describe the state where all traffic is at a standstill. Presumably this is because a lot of the street plan in Manhattan is, famously, a grid with right-angled intersections. "Gridlock Alert Days" are days when the City government wants drivers and passengers to know that there is a higher than usual possibility of gridlock. Catastrophic gridlock, where one gridlocked intersection causes cascading gridlock through the entire network, has never happened, but I believe the New York Police Department has plans for that contingency.
    – Tom Hughes
    Feb 14, 2017 at 17:35

A word that could be used is Standstill

Traffic was so bad it had come to a standstill

Defined by Dictionary.com as:

noun 1. a state of cessation of movement or action; halt; stop:

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