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

Other threats include Dutch elm disease, which has ravaged some of the city’s oldest trees, and natural gas leaks, which can suffocate trees. David Abel,, "City fails in promise to plant 100,000 trees," 9 June 2018 The python was trying to suffocate its prey before eating it. Elizabeth Finny And Sonia Osorio, miamiherald, "Python vs. gator: A trapper steps in to save a life in the Everglades," 18 June 2018 Older fields that survived are suffocating under silt. Audrey Mcavoy,, "Shortage of key Hawaii crop expected after rains swamp farms," 28 May 2018 Tissues are suffocating, and the heart struggles to compensate. New York Times, "Five Blood Transfusions, One Bone Marrow Transplant — All Before Birth," 25 May 2018 If the record was right, Anderson had been in the hospital precisely as Raveesh Kumra was suffocating on duct tape miles away. Katie Worth, WIRED, "Framed for Murder By His Own DNA," 19 Apr. 2018 Activist groups, including the Douma Coordination Committee and the Ghouta Media Center, said barrel bombs filled with toxic gas were dropped from helicopters over the town Saturday, causing people to suffocate and choke. Sarah El Sirgany And Hilary Clarke, CNN, "Gassed where they had hidden, Syrian families killed in minutes," 9 Apr. 2018 The opposition's Syrian Civil Defense rescue organization said the victims appeared to have suffocated. NBC News, "Israel blamed for airstrike in Syria after suspected Ghouta chemical weapon attack," 9 Apr. 2018 The death of a dog who was left to suffocate in an overhead bin on a recent United Airlines flight was allegedly joked about by United crew members on another flight four days later, according to Scottish actor Graham McTavish. Dave Quinn,, "Outlander Star Claims United Crew Made Jokes About Dogs in Overhead Bins 4 Days After Scandal," 18 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

7 Oct 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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