suf·​fo·​cate | \ ˈsə-fə-ˌkāt How to pronounce suffocate (audio) \
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

Other Words from suffocate

suffocation \ ˌsə-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce suffocate (audio) \ noun
suffocative \ ˈsə-​fə-​ˌkā-​tiv How to pronounce suffocate (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for suffocate


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Examples of suffocate in a Sentence

The poor dog could suffocate in the car on a hot day like this. Don't put your head in a plastic bag—you could suffocate.
Recent Examples on the Web But lawyers for the family heavily disputed that conclusion and argued, successfully, that the conduct of the deputies caused Phounsy to suffocate to death. San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 May 2022 When coiled around a lizard or throttling a bird, a boa constrictor doesn't actually suffocate its prey. Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Mar. 2022 Don’t suffocate solutions by focusing relentlessly on problems. Henry Devries, Forbes, 29 May 2021 But the greatest fear is getting stuck in a traffic jam in one of the highway’s long, pitch-black tunnels, where the buildup of carbon monoxide can suffocate those trapped within. New York Times, 3 Apr. 2022 For now, only certain categories of people are allowed to go without masks: Infants and toddlers under the age of 2 who might suffocate if wearing a mask. Los Angeles Times, 15 Feb. 2022 The agency said infants can suffocate after moving into a position that obstructs their breathing. Harold Maass, The Week, 24 Sep. 2021 While still dangerous, Fleming said in that position a person is less likely to suffocate. Greg Moran, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Mar. 2022 Another day, a boy tried to suffocate another child with a plastic bag. Melissa Sanchez, ProPublica, 26 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of suffocate

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

History and Etymology for suffocate

borrowed from Latin suffōcātus, past participle of suffōcāre "to stifle, choke, deprive of air, squeeze together," from suf-, assimilated form of sub- sub- + -fōcāre, verbal derivative of fauc-, faux (ordinarily in plural faucēs) "upper part of the throat, pharynx, windpipe," of obscure origin

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

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Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Suffocate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for suffocate


suf·​fo·​cate | \ ˈsə-fə-ˌkāt How to pronounce suffocate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce suffocate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce suffocate (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on suffocate

Nglish: Translation of suffocate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of suffocate for Arabic Speakers


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