adjective, stiff·er, stiff·est.
- a dead body; corpse.
- a formal or priggish person.
- a poor tipper; tightwad.
- a drunk.
- a fellow: lucky stiff; poor stiff.
- a tramp; hobo.
- a laborer.
- a forged check.
- a promissory note or bill of exchange.
- a letter or note, especially if secret or smuggled.
verb (used with object)
Origin of stiff
Synonyms for stiff
Related Words for stiffnessesrigidity, tension, formality, constraint, precision, rigor, firmness, prudery
Word Origin for stiff
Old English stif "rigid, inflexible," from Proto-Germanic *stifaz "inflexible" (cf. Dutch stijf, Old High German stif, German steif "stiff;" Old Norse stifla "choke"), from PIE *stipos-, from root *steip- "press together, pack, cram" (cf. Sanskrit styayate "coagulates," stima "slow;" Greek stia, stion "small stone," steibo "press together;" Latin stipare "pack down, press," stipes "post, tree trunk;" Lithuanian stipti "stiffen," stiprus "strong;" Old Church Slavonic stena "wall"). Of battles and competitions, from mid-13c.; of liquor, from 1813. To keep a stiff upper lip is attested from 1815.
"corpse," 1859, slang, from stiff (adj.) which had been associated with notion of rigor mortis since c.1200. Meaning "working man" first recorded 1930, from earlier genitive sense of "contemptible person" (1882). Slang meaning "something or someone bound to lose" is 1890 (originally of racehorses), from notion of "corpse."
"fail to tip," 1939, originally among restaurant and hotel workers, probably from stiff (n.) in slang sense of "corpse" (corpses don't tip well, either). Extended by 1950 to "cheat."
In addition to the idioms beginning with stiff
- stiff as a board
- stiff upper lip
- bore to death (stiff)
- keep a stiff upper lip
- scare out of one's wits (stiff)