as·​phyx·​ia | \ as-ˈfik-sē-ə How to pronounce asphyxia (audio) , əs- \

Definition of asphyxia

1 : a lack of oxygen or excess of carbon dioxide in the body that results in unconsciousness and often death and is usually caused by interruption of breathing or inadequate oxygen supply
2 : the state of being stifled or suppressed As a patient in hospital I felt both anguish and asphyxia—the anguish of being confronted with dissolution, and asphyxia because I could not be heard.— Oliver Sacks

Examples of asphyxia in a Sentence

The cause of death was asphyxia.
Recent Examples on the Web An autopsy revealed no serious injuries or signs of asphyxia, and the officers were not charged in West's death. Brian Witte, Star Tribune, "Maryland police reform would repeal officer job protections," 20 Feb. 2021 The Bexar County Medical Examiner said 46-year-old Jose Luis Villarreal Jr. died from blunt force injuries and traumatic asphyxia. Taylor Pettaway, San Antonio Express-News, "Officials ID man killed after he was run over by 18-wheeler on the West Side," 2 Feb. 2021 An autopsy would later determine her cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso. Julia Musto, Fox News, "NJ prosecutors renew plea for info in 2001 killing of woman found lying along road," 29 Nov. 2020 The department must train officers on the dangers of positional asphyxia. NBC News, "Her son was killed by police. Then she won the right to teach new cops.," 14 June 2020 Black’s death is eerily similar to the death this year of George Floyd, the lawsuit said, noting that Floyd also died of asphyxia after being pinned down by a team of police officers while struggling to breathe. Phillip Jackson,, "Family of Anton Black, who died at the hands of police on the Eastern Shore, files lawsuit alleging a cover-up, excessive force," 17 Dec. 2020 This rock guitar virtuoso is another artist who left us too soon. Hendrix died of asphyxia after becoming intoxicated with barbiturates in 1970. Lisa Respers France, CNN, "'The Crown' offers some valuable life lessons," 19 Nov. 2020 Erika, Imani, Damon Decree and Smith were killed by asphyxia, and Campbell was killed by ligature strangulation, according to authorities. Christopher Dornblaser, USA TODAY, "Mother, daughter plead guilty to killing five family members in Pennsylvania," 29 Sep. 2020 The Gates Foundation recently purchased 20 scanners for screening purposes to look at infant asphyxia and brain development in malnourished children. Carolyn Barber, Scientific American, "An Emerging Tool for COVID Times: The Portable MRI," 12 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'asphyxia.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of asphyxia

1778, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for asphyxia

New Latin, from Greek, stopping of the pulse, from a- + sphyzein to throb

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Time Traveler for asphyxia

Time Traveler

The first known use of asphyxia was in 1778

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Statistics for asphyxia

Last Updated

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Asphyxia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of asphyxia

medical : the state of not being able to breathe


as·​phyx·​ia | \ as-ˈfik-sē-ə, əs- How to pronounce asphyxia (audio) \

Medical Definition of asphyxia

: a lack of oxygen or excess of carbon dioxide in the body that is usually caused by interruption of breathing and that causes unconsciousness — compare suffocation

Other Words from asphyxia

asphyxial \ -​sē-​əl How to pronounce asphyxia (audio) \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on asphyxia

Nglish: Translation of asphyxia for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of asphyxia for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about asphyxia

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