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

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 Last year these brands covered about 5% of the labor force, but the joint-employer rule could stifle their growth. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 7 Sep. 2022 However, the bridge proposal could stifle urban renewal plans, the mayor said. NBC News, 20 Feb. 2022 In an effort to stifle communication and the flow of information, the junta has imposed nightly internet shutdowns. Helen Regan And Sarita Harilela, CNN, 2 Apr. 2021 Last week, Meituan shed $26 billion of value over two days after its boss, Wang Xing, posted obscure verses from a millennium-old poem about China’s first emperor’s misguided efforts to stifle dissent. Time, 20 May 2021 Disability rights advocates said if people cannot get the necessary information to vote, these barriers can stifle voter turnout. Tiffany Cusaac-smith, USA TODAY, 26 July 2022 Professor Chester Spatt of Carnegie Mellon University says that, instead of printing more checks to stifle the temporary impacts of inflation, governments should be taking steps to reduce demand and increase supply. Robert Farrington, Forbes, 11 July 2022 After DeSantis issued executive orders to stifle mask mandates, more than a dozen school districts and local governments defied him. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, 20 June 2022 Morningstar auto analyst David Whiston said the fear of a recession has been building along with worries inflation and high prices will stifle the ability of consumers to spend. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 13 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The US Department of Justice could reportedly join Epic Games and Tile in alleging that Apple has used the popularity of its products—especially the iPhone—to stifle competition. Nathaniel Mott, PCMAG, 27 Aug. 2022 The suit is the latest example of the Justice Department’s antitrust enforcement targeting companies the government believes engage in anticompetitive behavior to stifle workers or harm consumers. Michael Balsamo, Chicago Tribune, 25 July 2022 The suit is the latest example of the Justice Department’s antitrust enforcement targeting companies the government believes engage in anticompetitive behavior to stifle workers or harm consumers. Michael Balsamo, ajc, 25 July 2022 Despite all these virtues, the mask has also been vilified as a symbol of unthinking obedience to authority and a tool to muzzle children and stifle dissent. Corinne Purtill, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2022 Locals dismiss this data and argue that seasonal service industry jobs are a drop in the bucket compared to year-round, high-paying industry jobs lost when federal protections stifle mining and timber industries. Corey Buhay, Outside Online, 26 May 2017 China has effectively become a cashless society, but payments are dominated by two super-applications that stifle innovation and have major privacy risks. Alex Salkever, Fortune, 30 June 2022 As ever with Europe, there are fears that over-zealous EU regulations could force US tech giants to withdraw from Europe, stifle innovation across the tech community and lead to a talent exodus. Kjartan Rist, Forbes, 27 May 2022 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 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

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

Dictionary Entries Near stifle

stiff upper lip


stifle bone

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for stifle

Last Updated

24 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Stifle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Oct. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

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!