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

Definition of stiffen

intransitive verb

: to become stiff or stiffer

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from stiffen

stiffener \ ˈsti-​fə-​nər How to pronounce stiffener (audio) , ˈstif-​nər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for stiffen



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web In the case of the canaries, prosecutors for the first time are trying to stiffen the punishment by adding conspiracy charges. Washington Post, "Songbirds silenced as Colombia fights wildlife trafficking," 14 Aug. 2019 Trending: Colorado’s schedule is set to stiffen following its series against the Reds. Kyle Newman, The Denver Post, "On the road, the Rockies’ Wade Davis is the best closer in the National League. His performance at Coors Field is a different story.," 26 July 2019 The Packers picked up one first down before the Vikings defense stiffened, forcing a fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 25. Jim Hoehn / Special To The Pioneer Press, Twin Cities, "Packers withstand Aaron Rodgers’ fourth-down gaffe," 15 Sep. 2019 The surprise is that the glare of that spotlight only stiffens Gun’s spine. Ty Burr,, "In ‘Official Secrets,’ Keira Knightley speaks truth to power," 4 Sep. 2019 The 6-3 Crum broke off a 26-yard run on a long second down before ASU stiffened to force another punt. Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral, "Rewind: Arizona State wins season opener over Kent State," 29 Aug. 2019 Local residents stiffened in their resistance to border walls and the militarization of our communities. Bob Ortega, CNN, "Prosecutors to retry volunteer worker who aided migrants," 2 July 2019 But a new study shows that their vapor alone can cause your blood vessels to constrict, stiffen, and circulate less oxygen. Alex Baker-whitcomb, WIRED, "The Dangers of Vaping, a Texas Ransomware Attack, and More News," 20 Aug. 2019 The Knights did manage to move from their 20 to the West Bloomfield 47 in the final three minutes, but West Bloomfield stiffened and forced a turnover on downs at the West Bloomfield 49 with 2:11 left. Detroit Free Press, "Michigan commit seals West Bloomfield's 20-14 win over Oak Park," 21 July 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of stiffen

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about stiffen

Statistics for stiffen

Last Updated

27 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for stiffen

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for stiffen


How to pronounce stiffen (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of stiffen

: to stop moving and become completely still especially because of fear, anger, etc.
: to become painful to move or use
: to become more severe or strong or to make (something) more severe or strong


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

Kids Definition of stiffen

1 : to make or become stiff or stiffer The paper stiffened as it dried.
2 : to become tense and still He stiffened with suspicion.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on stiffen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stiffen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stiffen

Spanish Central: Translation of stiffen

Nglish: Translation of stiffen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stiffen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on stiffen

What made you want to look up stiffen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!