Go out walking in nature preserve. Spot new specimen: snag . The Oxford English Dictionary explains:
snag: N Amer. A standing dead tree.Webster’s New International Dictionary , second edition, is more expansive:
Forestry. A tree from which the top has been broken. A rampike, esp. one tall enough to be an extra fire hazard.And Webster’s Third:
A standing dead tree from which parts or all of the top have fallen; esp.: one that is more than 20 feet tall.The Third directs the reader to stub :
the part of a tree or plant that remains fixed in the earth when the stem is cut down or broken off.So a snag is taller than a stub.
Following the history of snag in the OED , it’s easy to see how a word having to do with trees came to signify an unexpected complication. The earliest meaning of snag (1577–87):
A short stump standing out from the trunk, or from a stout branch, of a tree or shrub, esp. one which has been left after cutting or pruning; also, a fruiting spur.Later (1807):
A trunk or large branch of a tree imbedded in the bottom of a river, lake, etc., with one end directed upwards (and consequently forming an impediment or danger to navigation). orig. U.S.And shortly thereafter (1830):
fig. An impediment or obstacle. Also, a disadvantage, a hitch; a defect.Followed in 1904 by “N Amer. A standing dead tree.”
The nature preserve in which I went walking had a sign on a trail with vocabulary. A dead tree on the ground: log . A dead tree still standing: snag .
As for rampike, Webster’s Second says:
A dead tree; a pointed stump or partly-burned tree; a tree broken off by the wind leaving a splintered end to the trunk.I know that visitors are not supposed to take anything with them from a nature preserve. But I think that taking the word snag is okay.