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 The competition stiffens this week, as UTSA faces UAB at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Alamodome. Greg Luca,, "UTSA puts run game in focus for matchup against UAB," 11 Oct. 2019 Leavelle’s body stiffens as Oswald grimaces in pain. Los Angeles Times, "Jim Leavelle, Texas lawman at Lee Harvey Oswald’s side when he was shot, dead at 99," 30 Aug. 2019 Glendale’s defense stiffened with a tackle for a one-yard loss followed by an incomplete pass, a false start, and a one-yard gain which put Mendez with a fourth and 15 at the Glendale 21. Andrew J. Campa, Glendale News-Press, "Defense leads Glendale High to season-opening victory," 23 Aug. 2019 Feinblatt, whose group threw together a presidential candidate forum on guns in Iowa this weekend in response to the string of recent mass shootings, said Democrats have stiffened their spines on guns in recent years. NBC News, "Who's afraid of the NRA? Democratic candidates have never been more united on gun control," 10 Aug. 2019 When Ellie is transported into the body of Katherine and forced to cope with the upcoming nuptials and a puzzled fiancé, Joan stiffens her posture, demeanor, and delivery. Don Aucoin,, "An enjoyable tale of transformation in North Shore Music Theatre’s ‘Freaky Friday’," 15 July 2019 More conservative parts of the country might stiffen at much of what Warren wants. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: What’s next after Market Street goes car-free?," 24 Jan. 2020 The new ordinance, approved four months after an advocacy group reported on sick and mistreated dogs at Petland’s Frisco location, stiffens requirements related to care, feeding, housing, sanitation and vet services at pet stores. Sharon Grigsby, Dallas News, "Frisco passes tougher animal regulations four months after undercover sting at Petland," 22 Jan. 2020 A couple feet of 20-pound-test mono leader stiffens the presentation and prevents treble-hook lures from circling back on themselves to snag the line. Frank Sargeant, al, "Looking for outdoors winter holiday? Try the beach," 5 Jan. 2020

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

Time Traveler for stiffen

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for stiffen

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stiffen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!