stiff·​en ˈsti-fən How to pronounce stiffen (audio)
stiffened; stiffening ˈsti-fə-niŋ How to pronounce stiffen (audio)

intransitive verb

: to become stiff or stiffer
ˈsti-fə-nər How to pronounce stiffen (audio)

Examples of stiffen in a Sentence

She stiffened when he grabbed her shoulder. The dogs stiffened in alarm. The law would stiffen penalties for tax evasion.
Recent Examples on the Web The Vikings’ defense stiffened there, stopping four straight running plays and forcing a turnover on downs at the 2. Rick Hoff, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Nov. 2023 This is when a frog stiffens its outstretched arms and legs to appear dead. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 12 Oct. 2023 The side sills are stamped from thicker steel, the A-pillars are made with a larger section, and an additional crossmember is added in the rear to stiffen the suspension area. Csaba Csere, Car and Driver, 11 Aug. 2023 Eovaldi threw the equivalent of a game warmup, sat down to rest, pitched an inning, sat down and then threw another inning to get an idea of how much the arm might stiffen up between innings. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 16 Aug. 2023 Gun litigation was hard — tactically, emotionally — and Koskoff said that the determination of these families to pursue accountability despite a legal framework designed to prevent gun makers from being held liable stiffened his own resolve. Michael Steinberger, New York Times, 29 Sep. 2023 Kia said in the documents that adding stiffening ribs around the housing of the mounting clips fixes the problem. Khristopher J. Brooks, CBS News, 11 Sep. 2023 In addition to support, bridges need some kind of stiffening truss—or framework of interconnected beams—to keep the structure rigid. Colin Dickey, Popular Mechanics, 31 Aug. 2023 An early April visit to Kyiv from Boris Johnson, then the British Prime Minister, seems to have stiffened Zelensky’s resolve. Keith Gessen, The New Yorker, 29 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'stiffen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of stiffen was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near stiffen

Cite this Entry

“Stiffen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


stiff·​en ˈstif-ən How to pronounce stiffen (audio)
stiffened; stiffening -(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce stiffen (audio)
: to make or become stiff or stiffer
stiffener noun

More from Merriam-Webster on stiffen

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