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

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to be or become unable to breathe easily
stifling in the heat
stifler noun
stiflingly adverb


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: 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Everything changes when Ponyboy meets Cherry Valance (Emma Pittman) and discovers that the Socs feel just as stifled by their living circumstances as the Greasers., 12 Apr. 2024 Banning girls’ education stifles the potential of half the population and hinders social and economic progress. Enayat Nasir, The Conversation, 11 Apr. 2024 Last month, Brazil was stifled by a dangerous heat wave that saw its heat index soar to 144 degrees. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 10 Apr. 2024 This eclipse may reveal areas where your voice or understanding has been stifled, urging you to seek healing through open dialogue and curiosity. Glamour, 8 Apr. 2024 The group eventually found Sinclair’s politics stifling, however, and parted ways with him. Gary Graff, Billboard, 2 Apr. 2024 Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, criticized the notion that Big Tech firms stifle innovation, saying that the companies file more patents than most firms and roll out new products. Max Zahn, ABC News, 22 Mar. 2024 By disregarding this fundamental tenet, the administration risks stifling the ... Mimi Walters, National Review, 1 Apr. 2024 Refuse to let anyone stifle your dreams or push you in a direction that doesn’t captivate your interest. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, 27 Mar. 2024
These tools will help autocrats undermine democracy abroad and stifle dissent at home, and enable demagogues and populists within democracies to weaponize AI for narrow political gain at the expense of democracy and civil society. Ian Bremmer, Time, 3 Jan. 2023 That is an element that McMillan wants to develop after watching the Miami Heat stifle Young in the playoffs, giving the Hawks few other options to get the offense rolling. Paul Newberry, ajc, 24 Sep. 2022 That’s partly because Bavarians are equally opposed to market-skewing big government and monopolistic businesses, on the grounds that both stifle competition. Osha Gray Davidson, Discover Magazine, 28 May 2015 The US Department of Justice is reportedly preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for abusing its market power to stifle competition. Scott Nover, Quartz, 30 Nov. 2022 Most have been imprisoned, injured, and killed by a diehard group trained by the regime to stifle dissent at all costs. Tara Kangarlou, Time, 5 Dec. 2022 Control of the Senate remains a toss-up, but even if Democrats retain control of that chamber a GOP House majority would be able stifle President Biden’s agenda. Charlie Savage,, 18 Oct. 2022 These bills have delivered results - from tax and fee cuts to removing burdensome red tape and regulations that stifle job creators. Jessica Haire, Baltimore Sun, 24 Oct. 2022 It's made in the U.S.A. with eco-friendly materials that stifle bacteria growth. John Thompson, Men's Health, 1 Aug. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'stifle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



alteration of Middle English stuflen


Middle English

First Known Use


1513, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2b


14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near stifle

Cite this Entry

“Stifle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


stifled; stifling
: to kill by depriving of or die from lack of oxygen or air : smother
: to keep in check by deliberate effort : repress
trying to stifle a sneeze

Medical Definition


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

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