smoth·​er | \ ˈsmə-t͟hər How to pronounce smother (audio) \
smothered; smothering\ ˈsmə-​t͟hə-​riŋ How to pronounce smothering (audio) , ˈsmət͟h-​riŋ \

Definition of smother

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to kill by depriving of air
b : to suppress (a fire) by excluding oxygen
c : to overcome or discomfit through or as if through lack of air
2a : to suppress expression or knowledge of smothered his rage
b : to stop or prevent the growth or activity of smother a child with too much care also : overwhelm
c : to cover thickly : blanket snow smothered the trails
d : to overcome or vanquish quickly or decisively
e : to cause to smolder
3 : to overcome or kill with smoke or fumes
4 : to cook in a covered pan or pot with little liquid over low heat

intransitive verb

: to be overcome or killed through or as if through lack of air



Definition of smother (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : thick stifling smoke or smudge
b : a state of being stifled or suppressed
2 : a dense cloud (as of fog or dust)
3 : a confused multitude of things : welter

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Other Words from smother


smothery \ ˈsmə-​t͟hə-​rē How to pronounce smothery (audio) , ˈsmət͟h-​rē \ adjective

Synonyms for smother

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of smother in a Sentence

Verb He tried to smother her with a pillow. She smothered the fire with a blanket.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These 49ers were built on defense, after all, on a smothering front four and sneaky-good linebackers and a strong, patched-together secondary. Ron Kroichick,, "49ers’ defense will carry the burden of Super Bowl LIV implosion," 3 Feb. 2020 Fyffe can add its name to the list with another smothering performance in Friday’s Class 2A championship game against Reeltown. Josh Bean |, al, "Stingy Fyffe defense faces SEC commit in 2A title game," 5 Dec. 2019 Asia’s fourth-largest economy has struggled to nurture entrepreneurship in the smothering shadow of such giants as Samsung Electronics Co. Washington Post, "Hedge Funds Hurt by Seoul’s Too-Good-to-Fail Bonds," 21 Oct. 2019 There's only so much his smothering socialite mother (Young) and sister Ainsley (Halston Sage), an innocuously unconvincing TV reporter, can do to help. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Prodigal Son': TV Review," 23 Sep. 2019 Get Oaxaca’s ultimate street food, tlayudas, at the evening-only Libres Tlayudas Doña Martha downtown, where large crispy tortillas are toasted on sidewalk grills before being smothered in beans, Oaxaca cheese, crispy lettuce, avocado, and salsa. Megan Spurrell, Condé Nast Traveler, "All the New Places to Eat, Drink, Stay, and Play in Oaxaca, Mexico," 17 Feb. 2020 While scientists and public health experts scrambled to collect more information, China's security services tried to smother it. Anchorage Daily News, "Early missteps, state secrecy in China likely allowed coronavirus to spread farther and faster," 2 Feb. 2020 The victim fought back, and Mikhay grabbed her by the neck and tried to smother her with a pillow. oregonlive, "Man who broke in, randomly attacked woman in bed gets 90 months," 11 Jan. 2020 Witnesses tried to smother the flames consuming him. Peggy O’hare,, "Iconic Village fire survivor resuming college studies, planning for future," 2 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The 40-minute mindset, the smother-ous defense, the varied scoring options. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc: Georgia State game was the best and worst of UC basketball," 16 Mar. 2018 Excessive moisture smothers and kills roots, leading to discolored and dying foliage. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, "Spray or drip irrigation: Which way is best for your garden?," 20 Oct. 2017 Smothers, who lived in the unit block of Osborne Road, was pronounced dead at the scene. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Charges dropped in 2016 Aberdeen double homicide," 25 Aug. 2017 Smothers remains in critical condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "Firefighters describe critically injured colleague as humble future leader," 10 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'smother.' 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 smother


circa 1520, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for smother


Middle English, alteration of smorther, from smoren to smother, from Old English smorian to suffocate; akin to Middle Dutch smoren to suffocate

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Time Traveler for smother

Time Traveler

The first known use of smother was in the 13th century

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Statistics for smother

Last Updated

22 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Smother.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

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More Definitions for smother


How to pronounce smother (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of smother

: to kill (someone) by covering the face so that breathing is not possible
: to cover (something) in order to keep it from growing or spreading
: to try to keep (something) from happening : to try to stop doing (something)


smoth·​er | \ ˈsmə-t͟hər How to pronounce smother (audio) \
smothered; smothering

Kids Definition of smother

1 : to kill or injure by keeping from getting air or by exposing to smoke or fumes : suffocate
2 : to become suffocated
3 : to keep from growing or developing by or as if by covering smother a fire … anguish smothered her smallest joy.— Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising
4 : to keep from happening : suppress I tried to smother a yawn.
5 : to cover thickly The salad was smothered with dressing.

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More from Merriam-Webster on smother

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for smother

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with smother

Spanish Central: Translation of smother

Nglish: Translation of smother for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of smother for Arabic Speakers

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