\ˈstif \

Definition of stiff 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1a : not easily bent : rigid a stiff collar

b : lacking in suppleness or flexibility stiff muscles

c : impeded in movement used of a mechanism a truck's stiff suspension

d : drunk sense 1a

2a : firm, resolute

b : stubborn, unyielding

c : proud

d(1) : marked by reserve or decorum

(2) : lacking in ease or grace : stilted

3 : hard fought stiff competition

4a(1) : exerting great force a stiff wind

(2) : forceful, vigorous

b : potent poured her a stiff drink

5 : of a dense or glutinous consistency : thick

6a : harsh, severe a stiff penalty

b : arduous, rugged stiff terrain

7 : not easily heeled over by an external force (such as the wind) a stiff ship

8 : expensive, steep paid a stiff price



Definition of stiff (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : in a stiff manner : stiffly

2 : to an extreme degree : severely scared stiff bored stiff

3 : close enough to the hole for an easy putt in golf hit it stiff and tapped it in for an easy birdie



Definition of stiff (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : corpse

2a : vagrant, tramp

b : a member of the working class especially : a blue-collar worker

c : person a lucky stiff especially : a stodgy or excessively decorous person

3 : flop, failure


stiffed; stiffing; stiffs

Definition of stiff (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to refuse to pay or tip stiffed the waiter

b : cheat stiffed him in a business deal

c : stick sense 7a stiffed us with the bar bill

2 : snub sense 3 stiffed sportswriters after the game

intransitive verb

: to fail commercially the movie stiffed at the box office

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Other Words from stiff


stiffish \ ˈsti-​fish \ adjective
stiffly adverb
stiffness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for stiff


stiff, rigid, inflexible mean difficult to bend. stiff may apply to any degree of this condition. stretching keeps your muscles from becoming stiff rigid applies to something so stiff that it cannot be bent without breaking. a rigid surfboard inflexible stresses lack of suppleness or pliability. ski boots with inflexible soles

Examples of stiff in a Sentence


When I got out of bed this morning my back was stiff as a board. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.


That poor stiff never gets a break. They have the kind of luxuries the average working stiff can't afford.


the actress has a reputation for stiffing the press at red-carpet events
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But with those closest to him under intense police and public scrutiny, and his typically loyal political allies suddenly turning silent, Netanyahu faces the stiffest challenge yet to his lengthy rule. Aron Heller, Fox News, "A look at the scandals surrounding Israel's prime minister," 21 Feb. 2018 In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his choice of Abe Fortas to succeed the retiring Earl Warren as chief justice of the United States (however, Fortas later withdrew in the face of stiff Senate opposition)., "This day in history," 26 June 2018 Thousands of jobs, good for the environment, no downside!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2015 Keystone XL faces stiff opposition in Canada and the US and was rejected by former US President Barack Obama. Joy Sewing, Houston Chronicle, "Executive spurred to action after his house becomes a shelter for neighbors," 19 June 2018 An earlier attempt to strip the designation from Gen. Italo Balbo, an ally of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, met stiff opposition from Italian-American organizations. John Byrne,, "Big crowd gathers at City Hall for contentious City Council meeting," 23 May 2018 In 2016, Barry Chang, then the city’s mayor and now a councilman, pushed for the city to tax large companies $1,000 per employee, but that encountered stiff opposition from businesses and failed to move forward. Wendy Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, "Apple could get hit with employer tax in its hometown," 21 May 2018 Yet, as president, Truman often struck the right note on race, demanding equality in the military and beyond in the face of stiff political opposition. Erik Spanberg, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Soul of America' reminds us that living up to our highest ideals has always been tricky," 10 May 2018 The uptick in federal enforcement actions, along with the stiff penalties, underscore the need for health care providers to establish protocols for preventing and responding to the unauthorized disclosure of protected health information. Anne M. Murphy, Laura B. Angelini, STAT, "Criminal prosecution for violating HIPAA: an emerging threat to health care professionals," 2 July 2018 In April, a circular from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry proposing stiff penalties for journalists who post fake news was pulled in less than 24 hours after widespread outcry. Annie Gowen,, "Mob lynchings fueled by fake news on WhatsApp sweep India," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Mariota has heard a lot from friends and fans on how he stiff-armed Jaguars safety Barry Church. USA TODAY, "X-factor: A running Mariota gives Titans another dimension," 3 Jan. 2018 Their valuable middle infielders — shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (sore left knee) and second baseman Neil Walker (stiff back) — are dealing with the reappearance of injuries. James Wagner, New York Times, "Walk-off Homer by Yoenis Cespedes Lifts Mets in Crucial Series Opener," 29 Aug. 2016

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Correa has been nursing a stiff back since going on the disabled list June 26. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Astros' Carlos Correa out until after All-Star break," 13 July 2018 By the end of spring training, despite a stiff back, Doc showed everyone his stuff was more than major league ready. Davey Johnson,, "What It Was Like to Manage a Rookie Doc Gooden, the Gritty Wally Backman and the New York Mets," 1 June 2018 Two stiffs staring at eternity was perhaps a bit more dramatic than a letter, telegram or text. John Kass,, "Silence in Chicago’s mayoral race: The missing Latino candidate and the Sun-Times chairman’s deal with Rahm’s money man," 12 May 2018 Big Ben: bomb double, medium-size, dark red flowers grow on stiff stems and are fragrant; foliage stays handsome through summer. The Editors Of Organic Life, Good Housekeeping, "How To Grow Your Own Gorgeous Peonies," 9 Mar. 2017 Artist Dayanita Singh was fed up with the stiff, sterile environments her photography was being exhibited in. Julissa Treviño, Smithsonian, "Pocket-Sized Exhibition Shows Museum Experience Is Not One Size Fits All," 20 Apr. 2018 Each tale was colorful in its own right — and, for the working stiff who settles up with the Internal Revenue Service every April, maybe a little infuriating. David Scharfenberg,, "Trillions of dollars have sloshed into offshore tax havens. Here’s how to get it back," 20 Jan. 2018 Helen, meanwhile, puts her do-gooder impulses to work trying to help a working-class stiff, Leonard Bast (Joseph Quinn), whose interactions with the family, despite her good intentions, only seem to keep magnifying his misfortune. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Howards End' expands novel into splendid Starz miniseries," 6 Apr. 2018 Traini would openly give the stiff-armed fascist salute and complain about African immigrants in the town, using a highly offensive term for them, said Francesco Clerico, who owns the gym where Traini trained for a decade. Washington Post, "Man shoots, wounds at least 6 ‘people of color’ in Italian city amid tensions," 3 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Compare that figure with the percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers who admitted stiffing the wait staff: 1.8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Tim Carman,, "Millennials tip the least, but it may not be for the reasons you think," 7 July 2018 Compare that figure with the percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers who admitted stiffing the wait staff: 1.8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Tim Carman,, "Millennials tip the least, but it may not be for the reasons you think," 7 July 2018 Last month, a federal bankruptcy court ordered Eagan Avenatti to pay $10 million to attorney Jason Frank, who used to work at the firm and claimed the company stiffed him on the first installment of a $4.85 million settlement. Brooke Singman, Fox News, "Stormy Daniels' legal fund could be targeted in case against attorney Avenatti," 13 June 2018 Compare that figure with the percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers who admitted stiffing the wait staff: 1.8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Tim Carman,, "Millennials tip the least, but it may not be for the reasons you think," 7 July 2018 Compare that figure with the percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers who admitted stiffing the wait staff: 1.8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Tim Carman,, "Millennials tip the least, but it may not be for the reasons you think," 7 July 2018 Normally, the story should have ended there, with a poor man being stiffed by a more powerful one. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times, "The Case of the Purloined Poultry: How ISIS Prosecuted Petty Crime," 1 July 2018 Compare that figure with the percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers who admitted stiffing the wait staff: 1.8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Tim Carman,, "Millennials tip the least, but it may not be for the reasons you think," 7 July 2018 Near triple-digit temperatures and high humidity smothered the Hartford region on Sunday, and Monday promised little relief from the stiffing heat with temperatures predicted to again top 90 degrees. Matthew Ormseth,, "Weather Service Issues Heat Warning With Temperatures Peaking Again Sunday, Residents Packing State Parks," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stiff.' 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 stiff


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1859, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1950, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for stiff


Middle English stif, from Old English stīf; akin to Middle Dutch stijf stiff, Latin stipare to press together, Greek steibein to tread on

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Dictionary Entries near stiff






stiff aster


Statistics for stiff

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stiff

The first known use of stiff was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for stiff



English Language Learners Definition of stiff

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: difficult to bend or move

: painful to move or use; also : showing pain in movement or use

: thick and difficult to stir or pour



English Language Learners Definition of stiff (Entry 2 of 4)

: very much : to an extreme degree



English Language Learners Definition of stiff (Entry 3 of 4)

: the body of a dead person

: a person who you think is lucky, unlucky, etc.

: an ordinary or dull person



English Language Learners Definition of stiff (Entry 4 of 4)

: to not give as much money as you should give to (someone)


\ˈstif \
stiffer; stiffest

Kids Definition of stiff

1 : not easily bent And because Sarah's clothes were stiff and heavy, the Indian woman made her clothes of deerskin …— Alice Dalgliesh, The Courage of Sarah Noble

2 : not easily moved stiff muscles

3 : firm and not changeable stiff determination

4 : not friendly, relaxed, or graceful in manner … how tense Phoebe's whole family seemed, how tidy, how respectable, how … stiff.— Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

5 : powerful, strong a stiff wind

6 : not flowing easily : thick Beat the egg whites until stiff.

7 : severe sense 3 a stiff penalty

8 : hard to do or deal with : difficult a stiff test

Other Words from stiff

stiffly adverb walk stiffly
stiffness noun


\ˈstif \

Medical Definition of stiff 

: lacking in suppleness stiff muscles

Other Words from stiff

stiffness noun

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Comments on stiff

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


to express warning or disapproval

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