• synonyms


[stahy-fuh l]
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verb (used with object), sti·fled, sti·fling.
  1. to quell, crush, or end by force: to stifle a revolt; to stifle free expression.
  2. to suppress, curb, or withhold: to stifle a yawn.
  3. to kill by impeding respiration; smother.
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verb (used without object), sti·fled, sti·fling.
  1. to suffer from difficulty in breathing, as in a close atmosphere.
  2. to become stifled or suffocated.
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Origin of stifle1

1350–1400; Middle English < Old Norse stīfla to stop up, dam, akin to stīfr stiff
Related formssti·fler, nounun·sti·fled, adjective


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1. prevent, preclude, put down. 2. check. 3. suffocate, strangle, choke.


1, 2. encourage.


[stahy-fuh l]
  1. (in a horse or other quadruped) the joint between the femur and the tibia, corresponding anatomically to the human knee.
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Origin of stifle2

1275–1325; Middle English < ?
Also called stifle joint.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stifle

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • As He knows so well where to hit us we must stifle our moans when He does so.

  • So hard it is, even for the most depraved, to stifle the last embers of the moral sense.

  • Chip made haste to stifle his mirth, in fear that she was going to cry.

  • Then, the moment I reached home, it seemed to me I should stifle were I to enter the house.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Because it seemed to me that we were all of us, all day long, endeavouring to stifle the voice.

British Dictionary definitions for stifle


  1. (tr) to smother or suppressstifle a cough
  2. to feel or cause to feel discomfort and difficulty in breathing
  3. to prevent or be prevented from breathing so as to cause death
  4. (tr) to crush or stamp out
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Derived Formsstifler, noun

Word Origin

C14: variant of stuflen, probably from Old French estouffer to smother


  1. the joint in the hind leg of a horse, dog, etc, between the femur and tibia
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Word Origin

C14: of unknown origin
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 stifle


late 14c., "to choke, suffocate, drown," of uncertain origin, possibly an alteration of Old French estouffer "to stifle, smother," which may be from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German stopfon "to plug up, stuff"). Metaphoric sense is from 1570s. Related: Stifled; stifling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper