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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 stiffened
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The lining was of heavy black silk, stiffened by the label of the maker which was glued to it.

    The Ivory Snuff Box Arnold Fredericks
  • Emmy Lou held her breath, stiffened her little body, and—waited.

    Emmy Lou George Madden Martin
  • While they stood warming their stiffened hands at the cheerful blaze, Ida entered.

    A Spoil of Office Hamlin Garland
  • It arched its neck back to almost touch its haunches, stiffened, and was still.

    Cat and Mouse Ralph Williams
  • Where they had fallen in drunken stupor the ice-breath of Death had stiffened them for his own.

    Captain Mugford W.H.G. Kingston
  • I could feel them stiffen and chill to it as I had stiffened and chilled.

British Dictionary definitions for stiffened


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 stiffened



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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