Other forms: stifled; stifles

To stifle is to cut off, hold back, or smother. You may stifle your cough if you don't want to interrupt a lecture or you may stifle the competition if you fear losing.

The verb stifle means “to choke, suffocate, drown.” It can describe a claustrophobic feeling, like getting smothered by kisses from your great aunt. At its most extreme, stifle means to kill by cutting off respiration. The metaphoric sense of stifle didn’t develop until well after the word was first recorded as a verb: "I can always tell — but never let on for fear of damaging his ego — that my boyfriend attempts to stifle tears during sappy parts of movies; his eyes well up at the corners and he’ll sniffle uncontrollably, claiming allergies."

Definitions of stifle
  1. verb
    impair the respiration of or obstruct the air passage of
    synonyms: asphyxiate, choke, suffocate
    see moresee less
    type of:
    block, close up, impede, jam, obstruct, obturate, occlude
    block passage through
  2. verb
    smother or suppress
    Stifle your curiosity”
    synonyms: dampen
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    excite, stimulate
    act as a stimulant
    choke, suffocate
    suppress the development, creativity, or imagination of
    type of:
    conquer, curb, inhibit, stamp down, subdue, suppress
    to put down by force or authority
  3. verb
    be asphyxiated; die from lack of oxygen
    synonyms: asphyxiate, suffocate
    asphyxiate, smother, suffocate
    deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
    see moresee less
    die from strangulation
    type of:
    buy the farm, cash in one's chips, choke, conk, croak, decease, die, drop dead, exit, expire, give-up the ghost, go, kick the bucket, pass, pass away, perish, pop off, snuff it
    pass from physical life and lose all bodily attributes and functions necessary to sustain life
  4. noun
    joint between the femur and tibia in a quadruped; corresponds to the human knee
    synonyms: knee
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    type of:
    articulatio, articulation, joint
    (anatomy) the point of connection between two bones or elements of a skeleton (especially if it allows motion)
  5. verb
    conceal or hide
    synonyms: muffle, repress, smother, strangle
    see moresee less
    type of:
    conquer, curb, inhibit, stamp down, subdue, suppress
    to put down by force or authority
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DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘stifle'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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