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

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Other Words from stiffen

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for stiffen



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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web That pattern of light regulation has put nursing home residents at extra risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus, advocates say, even as federal officials this month vowed to stiffen oversight., "Nursing Homes Face Catastrophic Mix of Virus and Lax Oversight," 19 May 2020 Though some laws covering rape have been stiffened, India still makes international headlines for horrendous gang rapes, and the cases keep coming. New York Times, "Men Convicted in Delhi Bus Rape Are Hanged in India," 19 Mar. 2020 When something that might be a new infectious disease emerges from China, spines tend to stiffen in this community. Helen Branswell, STAT, "The months of magical thinking: As the coronavirus swept over China, some experts were in denial," 20 Apr. 2020 Approval is not guaranteed, but the bipartisan support suggests passage would be more likely than not, an outcome that could stiffen headwinds MLB is already facing in its contentious talks with Minor League Baseball over a new working agreement. Michael Silverman,, "Lori Trahan introduces bipartisan resolution in House: MLB, don’t change minor league baseball," 28 Jan. 2020 The case drew international attention at the time and prompted Indian lawmakers to stiffen penalties for rape, part of a wave of changes as India confronted its appalling treatment of women. NBC News, "India hangs 4 men convicted for fatal New Delhi gang rape," 20 Mar. 2020 After Fields’ fumble gave Penn State the ball at the Buckeyes’ 35, down only 7, with seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Buckeyes’ defense stiffened. George Schroeder, USA TODAY, "No. 2 Ohio State passes first test by showing some grit in defeat of Penn State," 23 Nov. 2019 City Council unanimously approved the increase last month after Strongsville City Schools Superintendent Cameron Ryba, in a September email, asked Mayor Thomas Perciak and Police Chief Mark Fender to consider stiffening the penalty for violators. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Strongsville increases fine for passing stopped school buses from $500 to $750," 25 Nov. 2019 The hour before midnight and the deadline, the grass and ground stiffened with frost. Nic Robertson, CNN, "Boris Johnson's Brexit talks teeter on brink of collapse. Here's how a Nobel prize-winner could help him," 9 Oct. 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.

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First Known Use of stiffen

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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Time Traveler for stiffen

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

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Statistics for stiffen

Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stiffen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on stiffen

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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

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