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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Minnesota needs 3 million adults to get shots if estimates are correct that an 80% vaccination rate will stifle the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Walz said. Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune, "Walz: Minnesota progressing toward 3 million vaccinated target," 22 Jan. 2021 The vote has been unexpectedly competitive despite fierce government attempts to stifle the opposition — moves that have drawn global attention to Mr. Museveni’s autocratic rule. New York Times, "Ugandans Voted Today. Will Their President of 35 Years Win Again?," 14 Jan. 2021 Her situation, along with Washington’s global campaign to blacklist her father’s company has epitomized for many in China attempts by Washington to stifle China’s global ascent. Paul Vieira, WSJ, "Two Canadians Held in China Haven’t Been Tried, Contrary to Reports," 10 Dec. 2020 Mr Trump has also been sympathetic to Mr Erdogan’s attempts to stifle an investigation by a New York court into a Turkish state bank accused of circumventing American sanctions against Iran. The Economist, "Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s finance minister—and son-in-law—quits," 9 Nov. 2020 And autocratic governments could tighten regulations on social media as a way to stifle dissenting voices. Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times, "Facebook banned Trump. Leaders who say worse often go unpunished," 15 Jan. 2021 In practice, the ban on talking to journalists is often used to stifle information that could paint the department in a bad light, experts say. Libor Jany, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis police chief reprimands officer who anonymously detailed department's 'toxic culture'," 8 Jan. 2021 People voted in record numbers, unwilling to let the pandemic stifle their voices. Rex Huppke,, "Column: Looking back on 2020: A pants-less year of isolation and fervent hand-washing," 30 Dec. 2020 And Twitter has sought to slow the spread of posts by limiting retweeting – though that has concerned Republicans, who fear this measure will stifle conservatives’ speech. Scott Jasper, The Conversation, "Will Russia influence the American vote?," 29 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip says the changes to education will teach students a more balanced history of China, rather than stifle conversation. Selina Wang And Rebecca Wright, CNN, "Hong Kong's new rules have created confusion in the classroom. Some parents are pulling their children out," 18 Nov. 2020 Can Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos stifle Washington State’s Run and Shoot offense again? oregonlive, "Oregon Ducks vs. Washington State Cougars: Preview, odds, time, TV channel, how to watch live stream online," 14 Nov. 2020 In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Oct. 20, the US Justice Department and 11 state attorneys general accused Google of building a search and advertising monopoly and using its market power to stifle competition. Nicolás Rivero, Quartz, "The acquisitions that made Google a search monopoly," 20 Oct. 2020 Marvel stars make extra money when their films perform well at the box office, which means that streaming-only will inevitably cut wages, stifle competition, and ultimately cause the product to deteriorate. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Monopolization Is Killing Art," 22 Dec. 2020 Groundbreaking antitrust lawsuits announced Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission and four dozen states and districts accuse Facebook of engaging in monopolistic practices to snuff out rivals and stifle competition. Los Angeles Times, "FTC, states sue to break up Facebook over anti-competitive behavior," 9 Dec. 2020 Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee released a scathing, 450-page report that criticized Apple and other big technology companies for allegedly using their power to quash competition and stifle innovation for their own financial gain. Washington Post, "Hundreds of developers have sought to join the coalition formed to break Apple’s control over the App Store," 22 Oct. 2020 The Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Google has been abusing its online dominance in online search to stifle competition and harm consumers, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Michael Balsamo And Marcy Gordon, Anchorage Daily News, "Justice Dept. to file landmark antitrust case against Google," 20 Oct. 2020 Tech companies wobbled after the House Antitrust Subcommittee released a report arguing that companies like Apple, Amazon and Alphabet have used their dominance to stifle competition. Caitlin Ostroff, WSJ, "Stocks Rise as Trump Appears to Soften Stance on Stimulus," 7 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about stifle

Time Traveler for stifle

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for stifle

Last Updated

8 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Stifle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for stifle



English Language Learners Definition of stifle

: to not allow yourself to do or express (something)
: to stop (someone) from doing or expressing something
: to make (something) difficult or impossible


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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on stifle

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


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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