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

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Other Words from stifle


stifler \ ˈstī-​f(ə-​)lər How to pronounce stifler (audio) \ noun
stiflingly \ ˈstī-​f(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce stiflingly (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In a new cover story with the model opened up about how she has actually felt stifled by her over the years. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emily Ratajkowski Says That She Utilizes Her Super-Sexy Image for "Survival"," 7 May 2020 Yet our eagerness to cling to the other narrative — that the singer had been mercilessly stifled by an unfeeling corporation — is its own demonstration of the album’s ideas about women’s agency. Los Angeles Times, "Deep re-listening: Fiona Apple’s ‘Extraordinary Machine’," 1 Apr. 2020 Being stuck inside doesn’t have to stifle creativity. Hiroko Masuike, New York Times, "Green Cards, Oil Markets, Netflix: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing," 21 Apr. 2020 Health agencies and local officials have been urging people to practice thorough hand washing, keep their hands off their face, stay home when sick and even employ social distancing in an effort to stifle the spread of novel coronavirus. Fox News, "Coronavirus and tornado shelters: Here's what forecasters say you should do during a warning," 11 Apr. 2020 For decades, international and U.S. drug officials sought to stifle the global trade in illicit narcotics by restricting where poppies may be grown. Washington Post, "How Johnson & Johnson companies used a ‘super poppy’ to make narcotics for America’s most abused opioid pills," 26 Mar. 2020 The technique has been used to stifle numerous outbreaks of viral diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, mumps and influenza. Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Businesses close, unemployment rises as Evers' stay-at-home order comes with a dire warning," 24 Mar. 2020 For now, efforts to stifle the spread of coronavirus (through business closures and quarantines, to name a few) are still overshadowing attempts to quell their impact, notes UBS Wealth Management's chief investment officer Mark Haefele. Anne Sraders, Fortune, "Markets continue to slide as Goldman releases sobering new earnings estimates," 23 Mar. 2020 Public anger erupted in February when a doctor who was punished for warning his colleagues about the coronavirus died, prompting censors to redouble their efforts to stifle public criticism. Steven Lee Myers,, "China claims that the US army started the coronavirus," 13 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This week’s word is stifle, which means to restrain or stop oneself from acting on, such as giving an immediate, emotional reaction. Miriam Marini, Detroit Free Press, "Wayne State University series aims to help you refine your language," 6 Jan. 2020 The risk is that intervening and building barriers could scare away capital, stifle competition and smother innovation just when companies need it most. Washington Post, "Why Europe Wants to Pump Up Companies to Make ‘National Champions’," 20 Sep. 2019 The battle will require the tech execs to mobilize lawyers, lobbyists and PR teams to convince regulators, legislators and the media that their companies do not harm consumers or stifle competition. Dylan Byers, NBC News, "Mark Zuckerberg's next FTC fight could be tougher," 25 July 2019 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.

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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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Statistics for stifle

Last Updated

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stifle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for stifle


How to pronounce stifle (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on stifle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stifle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stifle

Spanish Central: Translation of stifle

Nglish: Translation of stifle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stifle for Arabic Speakers

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