suffocating; oppressively close: the stifling atmosphere of the cavern.

Nearby words

  1. stiffener,
  2. stiffly,
  3. stiffnecked,
  4. stiffy,
  5. stifle,
  6. stiflingly,
  7. stigma,
  8. stigmasterol,
  9. stigmata,
  10. stigmatic

Origin of stifling

First recorded in 1550–60; stifle1 + -ing2

Related formssti·fling·ly, adverbun·sti·fling, adjective



verb (used with object), sti·fled, sti·fling.

to quell, crush, or end by force: to stifle a revolt; to stifle free expression.
to suppress, curb, or withhold: to stifle a yawn.
to kill by impeding respiration; smother.

verb (used without object), sti·fled, sti·fling.

to suffer from difficulty in breathing, as in a close atmosphere.
to become stifled or suffocated.

Origin of stifle

1350–1400; Middle English < Old Norse stīfla to stop up, dam, akin to stīfr stiff

Related formssti·fler, nounun·sti·fled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stifling

British Dictionary definitions for stifling



oppressively hot or stuffya stifling atmosphere
Derived Formsstiflingly, adverb




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

Word Origin for stifle

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




the joint in the hind leg of a horse, dog, etc, between the femur and tibia

Word Origin for stifle

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 stifling



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper