verb (used with object), suf·fo·cat·ed, suf·fo·cat·ing.
  1. to kill by preventing the access of air to the blood through the lungs or analogous organs, as gills; strangle.
  2. to impede the respiration of.
  3. to discomfort by a lack of fresh or cool air.
  4. to overcome or extinguish; suppress.
verb (used without object), suf·fo·cat·ed, suf·fo·cat·ing.
  1. to become suffocated; stifle; smother.
  2. to be uncomfortable due to a lack of fresh or cool air.

Origin of suffocate

1520–30; < Latin suffōcātus (past participle of suffōcāre to choke, stifle), equivalent to suf- suf- + -fōc- (combining form of fauc-, stem of faucēs throat) + -ātus -ate1
Related formssuf·fo·cat·ing·ly, adverbsuf·fo·ca·tion, nounsuf·fo·ca·tive, adjectiveun·suf·fo·cat·ed, adjectiveun·suf·fo·ca·tive, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for suffocation

Contemporary Examples of suffocation

Historical Examples of suffocation

British Dictionary definitions for suffocation


  1. to kill or be killed by the deprivation of oxygen, as by obstruction of the air passage or inhalation of noxious gases
  2. to block the air passages or have the air passages blocked
  3. to feel or cause to feel discomfort from heat and lack of air
Derived Formssuffocating, adjectivesuffocatingly, adverbsuffocation, nounsuffocative, adjective

Word Origin for suffocate

C16: from Latin suffōcāre, from sub- + faucēs throat
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 suffocation

late 14c., from Middle French suffocation, from Latin suffocationem (nominative suffocatio) "a choking, stifling," from past participle stem of suffocare "suffocate," originally "to narrow up," from sub "up (from under)" (see sub-) + fauces (plural) "throat, narrow entrance."



early 15c., from Latin suffocatus, past participle of suffocare (see suffocation). Related: Suffocated; suffocating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

suffocation in Medicine


  1. To impair the respiration of; asphyxiate.
  2. To suffer from lack of oxygen; to be unable to breathe.
Related formssuf′fo•cation n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.