• synonyms


[stif-uh n]
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

Related Words


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.

British Dictionary definitions for stiffens


  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 stiffens



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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper