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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for smother
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Verloc, whose affair the police has managed to smother so nicely, was mediocre.

    The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
  • Pour it boiling on the cucumbers, and smother them as before.

  • You would kill her, smother her dead in your arms, before you would give her to—that.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • They had gone unheard and unseen, melting, as it were, in the shock and smother of the wave.

    Typhoon Joseph Conrad
  • His eyebrows and hair were left behind in the smother of flame.

    Garrison's Finish W. B. M. Ferguson
  • She tried to smother a little feeling of hurt because Isobel had deserted her.


    Jane Abbott
  • It needed only a few seconds to drop over the performer, to burn and smother him.

  • To smother the rush of words which were gathering at his lips, he raised his cup and drank.

    The Lure of the Mask Harold MacGrath
  • The fluff from the work seemed to smother Connie that morning.

    Sue, A Little Heroine

    L. T. Meade
British Dictionary definitions for smother


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 smother

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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