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[stif-uh n] /ˈstɪf ən/
verb (used with object)
to make stiff.
verb (used without object)
to become stiff.
to become suddenly tense, rigid, or taut, as in bracing oneself for or drawing back from shock, fear, or displeasure:
He stiffened, expecting to hear the worst.
Origin of stiffen
First recorded in 1490-1500; stiff + -en1
Related forms
overstiffen, verb
unstiffened, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for stiffen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He tried mixing in various things to stiffen up the pyroxylin.

    Creative Chemistry Edwin E. Slosson
  • Tableware is "solid" even if it contains alloy enough to stiffen it.

    Diggers in the Earth Eva March Tappan
  • He reviewed this study to stiffen the back-bone of his power of Attention.

    Assimilative Memory Marcus Dwight Larrowe (AKA Prof. A. Loisette)
  • I could feel them stiffen and chill to it as I had stiffened and chilled.

  • Mr. Buxton stopped abruptly, and the two men drew themselves up and seemed to stiffen, ever so slightly.

    By What Authority? Robert Hugh Benson
  • She saw him start and stiffen, but he tried to parry the thrust.

    The Rhodesian Gertrude Page
  • Marie, lay your hand on mine and leave it there until mine begins to stiffen.

  • If she couldn't be bright and cheerful, she could "swallow her sobs and stiffen."

British Dictionary definitions for stiffen


to make or become stiff or stiffer
(intransitive) to become suddenly tense or unyielding
Derived Forms
stiffener, noun
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 stiffen

1590s, from stiff (adj.) + -en (1). Related: Stiffened; stiffening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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