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 Documenting the cases that already are out there will be a key tool in stifling the virus’ spread. Lauren Caruba,, "‘We’re at war’: What to expect as coronavirus continues to spread in San Antonio," 22 Mar. 2020 Cincinnati Reds catcher and Indianapolis native Tucker Barnhart is doing his part to help two Zionsville restaurants as the coronavirus pandemic continues to stifle businesses around the country. Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Indy native Tucker Barnhart helps families to $500 in takeout at two Zionsville restaurants," 20 Mar. 2020 But none of these weapons are well-suited to combating a massive disease outbreak that has the ability to stifle economic supply and demand. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "Coronavirus Appears to Be Immune to Trump’s Powers," 11 Mar. 2020 The emergency rate in January 2008 did little if anything to stifle an intensifying financial crisis. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "US Treasury yields drop to the lowest level in 150 years," 4 Mar. 2020 On the other hand, when a single could have won the game, Dubon hit into a ninth-inning double play to help stifle a rally. John Shea,, "Giants’ Mauricio Dubon gets first lesson in center field," 27 Feb. 2020 In stifling the Flames over the final 54 minutes, the Bruins became the seventh team in the NHL’s 103-year history to win a game — regular season or playoffs — after allowing three goals in the opening four minutes. Matt Porter,, "Bruins know what it means to play the right way," 22 Feb. 2020 There’s also the men’s shot put final in the stadium, while the men’s marathon runners will have to contend with stifling heat and humidity on the Doha seafront. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Day 9 at track worlds begins with false start for McNeal," 5 Oct. 2019 The hulking mass of dead dinosaur had lain on the sandbar now for over a week in stifling heat, half-buried among the decaying vegetation and sediment. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why Wall Street is Losing Control of Tech IPOs—Data Sheet," 23 Aug. 2019 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

2 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stifle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Apr. 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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