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stiffen

[stif-uh n]
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verb (used with object)
  1. to make stiff.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to become stiff.
  2. 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.
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Origin of stiffen

First recorded in 1490–1500; stiff + -en1
Related formso·ver·stiff·en, verbun·stiff·ened, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stiffen

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Even as he held it up for all of them to see, his limbs began to jerk and stiffen.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • But they seemed to her to stiffen, against her will, and her embrace was surely mechanical.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • And all the time his eyes were upon his wife, and I saw her stiffen as if she had been struck.

    The Strolling Saint

    Raphael Sabatini

  • White and tense, her hands clenched, Rosamund seemed to stiffen before him.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Little by little his slack body began to stiffen; little by little he raised himself.


British Dictionary definitions for stiffen

stiffen

verb
  1. to make or become stiff or stiffer
  2. (intr) to become suddenly tense or unyielding
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Derived Formsstiffener, 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

Word Origin and History for stiffen

v.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper