stul·​ti·​fy ˈstəl-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce stultify (audio)
stultified; stultifying

transitive verb

: to have a dulling or inhibiting effect on
: to impair, invalidate, or make ineffective : negate
: to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical
archaic : to allege or prove to be of unsound mind and hence not responsible
stultification noun

Did you know?

Stupid or absurd behavior can be almost laughable at times. That's the kind of situation depicted in an 1871 London Daily News article, describing how a witness "stultified himself" by admitting that he was too far off to hear what he had claimed to have heard. But there is nothing especially funny about the now-archaic original usage of stultify. The word was first used in the mid-1700s in legal contexts, where if you stultified yourself, you claimed to be of unsound mind and thus not responsible for your acts. Nor is there humor in the most common meaning of stultify nowadays, that of rendering someone or something useless or ineffective.

Example Sentences

The government has been stultified by bureaucracy.
Recent Examples on the Web The goal is to stimulate, not stultify, productive economic activity—the kind that raises output and justifies increased wages. Judy Shelton, WSJ, 8 Mar. 2021 The sudden mass switch to virtual forms of working and socializing is expected to jump-start more nuanced investigations into what makes social interaction satisfying--or stultifying. Lydia Denworth, Scientific American, 8 June 2020 That thread gets developed in stultifying flashbacks that detail Amelia's efforts to strike out on her own as an aeronaut after her husband falls to his death during one of their rides together. Mark Lieberman, Houston Chronicle, 6 Dec. 2019 In this case, Amazon is the Standard Oil of our age, one among a handful of bogeymen gobbling up the economy and stultifying its dynamism. Samuel Hammond, National Review, 26 Sep. 2019 Every decision is a conversation, what could be ceaselessly stultifying to some. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 June 2019 Lately a wrinkle has appeared in the fabric of my days, one that both underscores my daily existence’s stultifying sameness and alters it somehow, complicates it. Deborah E. Kennedy, Good Housekeeping, 3 May 2019 Burrows is trapped not only in a ludicrous wig but also in a cumbersome accent and stultifying Brahmin cadence. Charles Mcnulty,, 2 Mar. 2018 There’s something stultifying about the non-Fed matchups in the Big Four. Jon Wertheim,, 20 Dec. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stultify.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Late Latin stultificare to make foolish, from Latin stultus foolish; akin to Latin stolidus stolid

First Known Use

1737, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of stultify was in 1737


Dictionary Entries Near stultify

Cite this Entry

“Stultify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



stul·​ti·​fy ˈstəl-tə-ˌfī How to pronounce stultify (audio)
stultified; stultifying
: to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or very unreasonable
: to make worthless or useless
stultify creativity

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