suf·​fo·​cate | \ˈsə-fə-ˌkāt \
suffocated; suffocating

Definition of suffocate 

transitive verb

1a(1) : to stop the respiration of (as by strangling or asphyxiation)

(2) : to deprive of oxygen

b : to make uncomfortable by want of fresh air

2 : to impede or stop the development of

intransitive verb

1 : to become suffocated:

a(1) : to die from being unable to breathe

(2) : to die from lack of oxygen

b : to be uncomfortable through lack of fresh air

2 : to become checked in development

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Other Words from suffocate

suffocation \ˌsə-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən \ noun
suffocative \ˈsə-​fə-​ˌkā-​tiv \ adjective

Synonyms for suffocate


choke, smother, stifle, strangle

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Examples of suffocate in a Sentence

Don't put that pillow over her face—she could suffocate. The poor dog could suffocate in the car on a hot day like this. The victims were found suffocated.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The episode’s opening sequence shows us that both Jack and Rebecca grew up in homes that suffocated them for some of the same reasons. Emma Dibdin, Country Living, "'This Is Us' Recap: Jack and an Adult Kate Appeared Together for the First Time and It Was Emotional," 10 Oct. 2018 After his 12-year-old son tried to suffocate himself with plastic bags, Michael Jensen gave the boy some advice, police say. Josh Magness, kansascity, "A 12-year-old set himself on fire. It was his father’s advice, Oklahoma police say," 17 Feb. 2018 First, oysters are sold alive, so never put them in a plastic bag (that basically suffocates them). Emily Main, Good Housekeeping, "10 Healthiest Fish on the Planet," 25 June 2015 Last season, the Lynx won it all in part by suffocating opponents, limiting them to a league-low 74.2 points a game. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "This Sophisticated Admirer of the Warriors Says, ‘More Draymond, Please’," 27 May 2018 Holiday was again a Blazer killer with 33 points and nine assists and suffocating defense on Portland's backcourt. Andrew Greif,, "Portland Trail Blazers can't hold home court, dig 2-game hole to Pelicans to start playoffs: Rapid Reaction," 17 Apr. 2018 This year, that carpet ride starts in April, and there will be no looking back, as the Astros will leave the AL West suffocating on their exhaust fumes and ensure the Division Series and, possibly, World Series begin in Houston. Usa Today Sports, USA TODAY, "MLB bold predictions: 6 scenarios for the 2018 season as Opening Day looms," 26 Mar. 2018 Houston is an ascendant mid-major program with a legendary head coach who energized a somnolent fan base through suffocating defense, a team-first mentality and a roster of players overlooked or cast aside by college basketball’s big boys. Mark Zeigler,, "When SDSU faces Houston in NCAA Tournament, it many ways it's playing itself," 13 Mar. 2018 In nine seasons in Charlottesville, Bennett has built one of the most successful programs in the country on a foundation of slow-paced but precise offense and sound and suffocating defense. Ralph D. Russo,, "No. 1 Virginia wins ACC title, 71-63 over No. 12 North Carolina," 10 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'suffocate.' 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 suffocate

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for suffocate

Middle English, from Latin suffocatus, past participle of suffocare to choke, stifle, from sub- + fauces throat

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Statistics for suffocate

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for suffocate

The first known use of suffocate was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for suffocate



English Language Learners Definition of suffocate

: to die because you are unable to breathe

: to kill (someone) by making breathing impossible

: to be uncomfortable because there is not enough fresh air


suf·​fo·​cate | \ˈsə-fə-ˌkāt \
suffocated; suffocating

Kids Definition of suffocate

1 : to kill by stopping the breathing of or by depriving of oxygen to breathe

2 : to die from being unable to breathe

3 : to be or become choked or smothered Weeds are suffocating the flowers we planted.

4 : to suffer from lack of fresh air


suf·​fo·​cate | \ˈsəf-ə-ˌkāt \
suffocated; suffocating

Medical Definition of suffocate 

transitive verb

1 : to stop the respiration of (as by strangling or asphyxiation)

2 : to deprive of oxygen

intransitive verb

: to die from being unable to breathe

Other Words from suffocate

suffocative \-​ˌkāt-​iv \ adjective

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Comments on suffocate

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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