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[smuhth -er] /ˈsmʌð ər/
verb (used with object)
to stifle or suffocate, as by smoke or other means of preventing free breathing.
to extinguish or deaden (fire, coals, etc.) by covering so as to exclude air.
to cover closely or thickly; envelop:
to smother a steak with mushrooms.
to suppress or repress:
to smother feelings.
Cookery. to steam (food) slowly in a heavy, tightly closed vessel with a minimum of liquid:
smothered chicken and onions.
verb (used without object)
to become stifled or suffocated; be prevented from breathing.
to be stifled; be suppressed or concealed.
dense, stifling smoke.
a smoking or smoldering state, as of burning matter.
dust, fog, spray, etc., in a dense or enveloping cloud.
an overspreading profusion of anything:
a smother of papers.
Origin of smother
1125-75; (noun) Middle English smorther dense smoke; akin to Old English smorian to suffocate; (v.) Middle English smo(r)theren, derivative of the noun
Related forms
smotherable, adjective
half-smothered, adjective
unsmotherable, adjective
unsmothered, adjective
unsmothering, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for half-smothered
Historical Examples
  • Her hands clutched at the breast of the cloak, her head dropped into her breast, and a half-smothered moan escaped from her.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • A half-smothered cry reached him from somewhere in the direction of the barn.

    The Night Riders Ridgwell Cullum
  • Lucy was half-smothered with kisses, and was made supremely happy by a present of the finest doll she had ever possessed.

    Little Novels Wilkie Collins
  • They were half-smothered, lying on their faces as they were.

  • A few minutes later I was down again, but I emerged again without much exertion, half-smothered with snow.

    The Home of the Blizzard Douglas Mawson
  • At once the man started back with a half-smothered exclamation.

    The Motor Boys Afloat Clarence Young
  • If my ears did not deceive me there was a gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child.

    Dracula Bram Stoker
  • A half-smothered sob was her reply, and a tear fell on his hand.

  • A wild, half-smothered shriek welled up from the sagebrush, showing that another redskin had gone to the land of the hereafter.

    Famous Indian Chiefs Charles H. L. Johnston
  • There are a lot of wharves, sheds, and vessels lying there half-smothered in mist.

    The Wood Fire in No. 3 F. Hopkinson Smith
British Dictionary definitions for half-smothered


to suffocate or stifle by cutting off or being cut off from the air
(transitive) to surround (with) or envelop (in): he smothered her with love
(transitive) to extinguish (a fire) by covering so as to cut it off from the air
to be or cause to be suppressed or stifled: smother a giggle
(transitive) to cook or serve (food) thickly covered with sauce, etc
anything, such as a cloud of smoke, that stifles
a profusion or turmoil
(archaic) a state of smouldering or a smouldering fire
Derived Forms
smothery, adjective
Word Origin
Old English smorian to suffocate; related to Middle Low German smōren
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for half-smothered



c.1200, "to suffocate with smoke," from smother (n.), earlier smorthre "dense, suffocating smoke" (late 12c.), from stem of Old English smorian "to suffocate, choke, strangle, stifle," cognate with Middle Dutch smoren, German schmoren; possibly connected to smolder. Meaning "to kill by suffocation in any manner" is from 1540s; sense of "to extinguish a fire" is from 1590s. Sense of "stifle, repress" is first recorded 1570s; meaning "to cover thickly (with some substance)" is from 1590s. Related: Smothered; smothering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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