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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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for stifled

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Positively, there did seem to be a kind of stifled murmur, within!

    The Paradise of Children

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • "It is ten minutes past the twelve," she answered in a stifled voice.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • Every spark of human feeling had evidently been stifled in him.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • "It's—it's going to the wash," said a stiff and stifled voice.

  • Its first war-cry was stifled back by the brutal and cowardly hand of Destiny.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

British Dictionary definitions for stifled


  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 stifled



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