sti·​fle | \ ˈstī-fəl How to pronounce stifle (audio) \
stifled; stifling\ ˈstī-​f(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce stifle (audio) \

Definition of stifle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to withhold from circulation or expression stifled our anger
b : to cut off (the voice, the breath, etc.)
2a(1) : muffle
(2) : smother
b : to kill by depriving of oxygen : suffocate

intransitive verb

: to be or become unable to breathe easily stifling in the heat



Definition of stifle (Entry 2 of 2)

: the joint next above the hock in the hind leg of a quadruped (such as a horse or dog) corresponding to the human knee — see horse illustration

Other Words from stifle


stifler \ ˈstī-​f(ə-​)lər How to pronounce stifle (audio) \ noun
stiflingly \ ˈstī-​f(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce stifle (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for stifle

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of stifle in a Sentence

Verb trying to stifle a cry I had to stifle the desire to yell “Stop!”. Students at the school are stifled by the pressure to score high on tests. Too many regulations stifle innovation. something that stifles the growth of the plant I wish we could go outside instead of stifling in this tiny room. He was almost stifled by the smoke. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Holloway wrote that tobacco companies handed out free cigarettes in Black housing projects and even donated to civil rights organizations in order to stifle criticism from within the Black community. Grayson Quay, The Week, 2 May 2022 The combination of the law’s intentional vagueness and severity is meant to stifle criticism of the Russian invasion. Stanislav Budnitsky, The Conversation, 19 Apr. 2022 Human rights groups and some governments have cited concern over China’s mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and its efforts to stifle criticism in Hong Kong. Kim Mackrael, WSJ, 9 Dec. 2021 Anger and anxiety over the Shanghai lockdown, now in its fourth week, has posed a rare challenge for China’s powerful propaganda apparatus, which is central to the Communist Party’s ability to stifle dissent. New York Times, 27 Apr. 2022 The move to outlaw Navalny's movement is part of a sweeping and unprecedented crackdown under Putin to stifle dissent that has intensified in recent months. Patrick Reevell, ABC News, 9 June 2021 Those big mounds of mulch, all over the yard, will stifle the roots and make life oh so hard. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, 15 Apr. 2022 That's because everything Xi has implemented at home has been to stifle free thought, not unleash it. Ian Johnson, CNN, 9 Mar. 2022 In recent years, governments in India, Myanmar, Ethiopia and elsewhere have used internet blackouts to stifle pockets of dissent. New York Times, 23 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Even in a country that is known to stifle dissent, hundreds of demonstrators came out in St. Petersburg on Thursday, at great personal risk, to protest Putin’s invasion. Philip Klein, National Review, 25 Feb. 2022 And the pressure to stifle outbreaks can make officials overzealous, prioritizing adherence to the rules no matter the cost. Chris Buckley,, 30 Jan. 2022 And the pressure to stifle outbreaks can make officials overzealous, prioritizing adherence to the rules no matter the cost. New York Times, 30 Jan. 2022 But Commissioner Kelly Moden said granny flats have too much potential to help solve the local housing shortage for the city to potentially stifle construction. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Dec. 2021 The principles are a response to concerns raised by app developers and lawmakers, who say app stores run by Apple Inc. and others take an unfairly large cut of digital revenues and stifle competition. Ryan Tracy, WSJ, 9 Feb. 2022 His dramatic 11-yard sack earlier in the fourth quarter helped stifle a drive by Batavia (10-1). Jeff Vorva,, 6 Nov. 2021 Critics said that change aimed to stifle shareholders’ voices. Washington Post, 4 Nov. 2021 Red Lines offers vivid examples from around the world indicating the many ways governments, religious authorities, economic interests and others conspire to stifle dissent and silence cartoonists. Rob Salkowitz, Forbes, 7 Sep. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of stifle


1513, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2b


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stifle


alteration of Middle English stuflen


Middle English

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Time Traveler for stifle

Time Traveler

The first known use of stifle was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near stifle

stiff upper lip


stifle bone

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Statistics for stifle

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Stifle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for stifle


sti·​fle | \ ˈstī-fəl How to pronounce stifle (audio) \
stifled; stifling

Kids Definition of stifle

1 : to cause or have difficulty in breathing The room was hot and stifling.
2 : to keep in check by effort I had to stifle a laugh.


sti·​fle | \ ˈstī-fəl How to pronounce stifle (audio) \

Medical Definition of stifle

: the joint next above the hock in the hind leg of a quadruped (as a horse) corresponding to the knee in humans

More from Merriam-Webster on stifle

Nglish: Translation of stifle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stifle for Arabic Speakers


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