sti·​fle | \ˈstī-fəl \
stifled; stifling\ˈstī-​f(ə-​)liŋ \

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.)

c : deter, discourage

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 \ noun
stiflingly \ˈstī-​f(ə-​)liŋ-​lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for stifle

Synonyms: Verb

muffle, mute

Antonyms: Verb


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of stifle in a Sentence


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

This creates new opportunities for Republicans to point out the flaws in Democratic plans to enlarge the bureaucracies already stifling American medicine. James Freeman, WSJ, "Art of the Deal: 2020," 16 Nov. 2018 Control of the House gives Democrats the ability to launch investigations into the president and stifle his agenda. Catherine Lucey, The Seattle Times, "Despite House loss, Trump still sees midterms success," 7 Nov. 2018 The film is legendary for its fly-on-the-wall, real-time documentation of the Rolling Stones in the studio cutting the title song, replete with awkward silences, stifling boredom—and thrilling creative breakthroughs. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "3 Newly Released Rock Documentaries Might Be Your Cup of Escapist Tea This Weekend," 28 Sep. 2018 The day's stifling humidity was palpable, even through my television. Perrie Samotin, Glamour, "The Thing I'll Miss Most About Sharp Objects? Amy Adams' Hair," 26 Aug. 2018 Adding those channels to Disney’s portfolio could be seen as stifling competition since Disney also controls ESPN, the dominant cable sports channel in the United States. New York Times, "Justice Dept. Approves Disney’s Purchase of Fox Assets," 27 June 2018 The better team won because Washington stifled Vegas’ fearsome attack, limiting the Western Conference champions to five even-strength goals across Games 3-5. Alex Prewitt,, "First Capitals Cup crystallizes end of D.C. drought," 8 June 2018 Republicans argue that their measures are not about stifling voters, but preventing voter fraud. German Lopez, Vox, "The right to vote is under siege in 2018," 6 Nov. 2018 In Skate Kitchen, a young skater named Camille (played by Rachelle Vinberg), stifled by her mom, seeks refuge among a cadre of skateboarding friends in a new town. Katherine Cusumano, Teen Vogue, ""Skate Kitchen" Director Crystal Moselle on Why It’s So Important To Take Young Women Seriously," 23 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The government did not appear to prove its case that a bulked-up AT&T would harm consumers and stifle competition. Brooks Barnes, New York Times, "As Disney Moves Forward With Fox, Comcast Continues Plotting," 20 May 2018 Clyde the Belgian came to Hay Burr Inn with a stifle injury. Denise Coffey, Courant Community, "Working Small Miracles At Hay Burr Inn Equine Rescue," 19 Sep. 2017 The company created what is called a stifle brace for Fievel, a black Lab mix who suffers from a painful torn ACL. Stacey Delikat, Fox News, "Prosthetic limbs offering pets a new 'leash' on life," 3 July 2017

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

Statistics for stifle

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stifle

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

See more words from the same century

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 \
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 \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on stifle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stifle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stifle

Spanish Central: Translation of stifle

Nglish: Translation of stifle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stifle for Arabic Speakers

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).


to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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