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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 stiffens
Historical Examples
  • Generally speaking, the higher he carries his head, and the less he stiffens his stern, the further off are the birds.

    Dog Breaking William Nelson Hutchinson
  • Sandy-hued Mistress Sadler stiffens and bridles at the question.

    A Warwickshire Lad George Madden Martin
  • Before it stiffens, very carefully press in the handle or ornament just up to the halfway line and allow to set.

  • He wriggles from side to side, stiffens his back, and you cannot seat him on the chair.

  • Shrinking with fear when taken, it contracts its body and so stiffens it that it will break if we strike or bend it.

  • If it stiffens any further it will break me; and thats not all, you see.

    The Impostor Harold Bindloss
  • Add stiffly beaten whites of two eggs, beat until it stiffens and becomes foamy.

  • Darcy stiffens and scarcely nods when Wickham is introduced.

    Pride and Prejudice, a play Mary Keith Medbery Mackaye
  • Wings may be covered with a coat of shellac which stiffens them and gives them a very glossy look.

    Make Your Own Hats Gene Allen Martin
  • Dogma, rigidly prescribed by tradition, stiffens into formalism.

    Language Edward Sapir
British Dictionary definitions for stiffens


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 stiffens



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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