smoth·​er | \ ˈsmə-t͟hər How to pronounce smother (audio) \
smothered; smothering\ ˈsmə-​t͟hə-​riŋ How to pronounce smother (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 smother (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 Much like in South Korea, public-opinion surveys in the United Kingdom and United States consistently showed that a majority of people wanted more restrictions to smother the pandemic, not less. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "The Good, the Bad, and the Embarrassing in America’s COVID-19 Response," 25 Feb. 2021 His ability to smother and frustrate the best guards is an invaluable asset. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Ranking the 10 best college basketball players in the men's NCAA Tournament Final Four," 2 Apr. 2021 Meet the 2021 Dodgers, a team that is going to write the kind of stirring sequel rarely seen in Hollywood, an emphatic baseball encore that will lock down Murderer’s Row, smother the Gashouse Gang, and turn the Big Red Machine blue. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Why the 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers will be the greatest team in baseball history," 29 Mar. 2021 The Terps smother opponents with pressure that creates turnovers and transition baskets, quickly covers open shooters and stresses ballhandlers every possession. Jim Vertuno, ajc, "Sweet 16 coaches Staley and Fortner share Olympic bond," 27 Mar. 2021 Confidence, like so much else in politics, flows from common debate and earnest consideration, and enduring authorizations of power tend to smother those habits in the crib. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Repeal the Iraq AUMF," 26 Mar. 2021 And smother your sweets in lentils and citrus to make a full meal out of them. Ali Francis, Bon Appétit, "25 Baked Sweet Potato Toppings to Crown Your Tubers," 26 Mar. 2021 The winners of Conference USA have an explosive guard in Javion Hamlet (15.0 ppg, 4.5 apg) and can smother opponents defensively – ranking 10th nationally with 61.2 points per game allowed. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "From the No. 1 seed to Cinderella, here are 10 bold predictions for the 2021 NCAA Tournament," 17 Mar. 2021 For the communities in Prince George’s County that surround U-Md., the stakes are high as the university seeks to smother clusters of infection that have popped up all over the campus. Washington Post, "As U-Va. and U-Md. try to curb surge in coronavirus cases, neighboring communities brace themselves," 23 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Will years of oak leaves accumulating on the soil smother Asian jasmine and keep its roots from grabbing the ground? Neil Sperry, San Antonio Express-News, "Bad news for Xylosma plants: they didn't survive the freeze," 26 Mar. 2021 Mazda's all-wheel-drive system is quick to smother wheelspin, but a hard launch can elicit a tortured bark from the front tires before the system diverts torque rearward. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Is a Tuner Car for Grownups," 20 Nov. 2020 So all Mack did was use his comic book power and explosion to blow past Fulton and smother quarterback Deshaun Watson in the end zone. Dan Wiederer,, "Column: Do your eyes trust what they see? Translating the Chicago Bears’ most convincing win all season is complicated.," 13 Dec. 2020 Sauté slices with duck breast; add to a pork roast or smother apples and sauerkraut with some game sausages. Kim Sunée, Anchorage Daily News, "These apple cinnamon doughnut muffins will give you all the fall feels," 1 Oct. 2020 This allows the control-arm suspensions to smother potholes, leaving the ride uncannily smooth. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2021 Infiniti QX80 Remains Relevant," 24 Nov. 2020 Pittsburgh’s smother-ous, Big Brother-ous encore crushing of Cincinnati Sunday was a speed bump in the supermarket parking lot. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, "Doc's Morning Line: 10 things from Bengals' blowout loss to Steelers," 16 Nov. 2020 Scientists say the technique could help officials trace and smother outbreaks, and could shed light on the origins of the nation’s most high-profile coronavirus cluster: the outbreak at the White House. Anchorage Daily News, "Scientists use virus’s genetic code in attempt to control it," 14 Oct. 2020 They have been brainwashed to think that leaves smother lawns. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, "Take these tasks off your autumn to-do list forever," 1 Oct. 2020

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

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Smother.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for smother



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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