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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for stiffens
Historical Examples
  • He stiffens up that old monkey of a Malay, who knows well enough what to do.

    End of the Tether Joseph Conrad
  • The body is rocked from side to side for a short time, and then it stiffens.

  • First off Stanley stiffens up like he was goin' to be peeved.

    Torchy As A Pa Sewell Ford
  • Sandy-hued Mistress Sadler stiffens and bridles at the question.

    A Warwickshire Lad George Madden Martin
  • If it weren't for him, we'd have an easier fight; he stiffens up the others.

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

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

    The Impostor

    Harold Bindloss
  • This stiffens the stretcher and prevents the pieces from turning in the skin.

    Science of Trapping Elmer Harry Kreps
  • Darcy stiffens and scarcely nods when Wickham is introduced.

    Pride and Prejudice, a play Mary Keith Medbery Mackaye
  • 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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