See more synonyms for smother on
verb (used with object)
  1. to stifle or suffocate, as by smoke or other means of preventing free breathing.
  2. to extinguish or deaden (fire, coals, etc.) by covering so as to exclude air.
  3. to cover closely or thickly; envelop: to smother a steak with mushrooms.
  4. to suppress or repress: to smother feelings.
  5. Cookery. to steam (food) slowly in a heavy, tightly closed vessel with a minimum of liquid: smothered chicken and onions.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become stifled or suffocated; be prevented from breathing.
  2. to be stifled; be suppressed or concealed.
  1. dense, stifling smoke.
  2. a smoking or smoldering state, as of burning matter.
  3. dust, fog, spray, etc., in a dense or enveloping cloud.
  4. 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 formssmoth·er·a·ble, adjectivehalf-smoth·ered, adjectiveun·smoth·er·a·ble, adjectiveun·smoth·ered, adjectiveun·smoth·er·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for smothering

Contemporary Examples of smothering

  • Another top contender in the Oscar race is Barbara Hershey, as the smothering mother of fragile Natalie Portman in Black Swan.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Hollywood's Bad Mother Obsession

    Stephen Farber

    December 29, 2010

  • “Etouffée” means smothered, which is how this dish should be served: smothering the rice underneath it.

    The Daily Beast logo
    What to Eat: Mardi Gras

    February 16, 2010

  • Certainly they would be better off under a reformist government, rather than the smothering absolutism of the oligarchy.

Historical Examples of smothering

  • "We'll run for Peel this morning, boys," said Pete, smothering his voice in a mouthful.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • The smothering canopy was then lowered, but not so noiselessly as I had seen it lowered.

  • He thought, on this, that he might be smothering her; and he relaxed his hold to allow her to breathe.

    The Wild Geese

    Stanley John Weyman

  • He was choking, smotheringsmothering with shame, hopelessness, despair.

    Garrison's Finish

    W. B. M. Ferguson

  • She sprawled back, resignedly, in her chair, smothering a yawn.


    Jane Abbott

British Dictionary definitions for smothering


  1. to suffocate or stifle by cutting off or being cut off from the air
  2. (tr) to surround (with) or envelop (in)he smothered her with love
  3. (tr) to extinguish (a fire) by covering so as to cut it off from the air
  4. to be or cause to be suppressed or stifledsmother a giggle
  5. (tr) to cook or serve (food) thickly covered with sauce, etc
  1. anything, such as a cloud of smoke, that stifles
  2. a profusion or turmoil
  3. archaic a state of smouldering or a smouldering fire
Derived Formssmothery, adjective

Word Origin for smother

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

Word Origin and History for smothering



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