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

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Other Words from suffocate

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

Synonyms for suffocate


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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 Chinese government is certainly worried about suffocating the country's economy, and those workers should be (hopefully) returning in the next week or two. Jeff Spross, TheWeek, "The coronavirus is hitting the Chinese economy at the worst time," 12 Feb. 2020 Economists often argue that rent regulation disincentivizes new investment and could suffocate housing markets. Konrad Putzier, WSJ, "Buyers Return After Rent-Control Slams New York Apartment Values," 4 Feb. 2020 Bacon said Denari likely suffocated but said the Maricopa County Medical Examiner would ultimately determine the cause of death. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "Police: Tempe mom likely had medical incident, died, and fell on infant son, killing him," 3 Feb. 2020 The algae will consume the oxygen in the water, suffocating species that rely on it. Doug Johnson, Scientific American, "Australia’s Marine Animals Will Be Bushfires’ Unseen Victims," 2 Feb. 2020 In short, untethered from real democratic input, the EU at once suffocates European life with regulation and unmoors it with lawless caprice. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Why Brexit Matters," 31 Jan. 2020 Nobody likes feeling ignored, but this feels so powerfully suffocating emotionally. Caity Weaver, New York Times, "How to Deal With Grief at the Office," 29 Jan. 2020 In Maryland, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced bills in the state House and Senate last week that would make intentionally suffocating or strangling someone a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "In a few places in the US, strangling someone is only a misdemeanor. Lawmakers want to change that," 24 Jan. 2020 The performance was especially impressive considering the Blazers won with defense, suffocating the NBA’s leading scorer, James Harden, with a variety of creative defensive looks. Joe Freeman | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Brandon Roy, boring play, pinwheel logos, bench wackiness: Portland Trail Blazers roundup," 17 Jan. 2020

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

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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Time Traveler for suffocate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for suffocate

Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Suffocate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for suffocate


How to pronounce suffocate (audio)

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 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 suffocative (audio) \ adjective

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