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 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, remember, nothing can get in or out of that bubble and, eventually, both of them will suffocate. Brian Moylan, Vulture, "Summer House Recap: Pornin’ Down the House," 8 Apr. 2021 Nord Stream 2 has only two purposes: one is to isolate and suffocate Ukraine, and also to injure Poland by diverting the flows from the Yamal pipeline. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The EU’s Vaccine Shambles — and How a Distrust of Free Markets Made It Worse," 26 Mar. 2021 Within weeks, its danger became clear as hospitals in the city ran out of oxygen amid a crush of patients, leading scores to suffocate to death. New York Times, "Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say," 3 Mar. 2021 The heavy sea washed into the ship, and thus liberated chlorine gas in such quantities as to nearly suffocate all on board. Dan Schlenoff, Scientific American, "50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: February 2021," 26 Jan. 2021 Hart fought back as Emery punched her several times, tried to suffocate her and then stabbed her in the buttocks. Garrett Andrews, oregonlive, "Oregon woman fights release of her attacker who wants out early from 60-year sentence due to COVID-19," 20 Jan. 2021 Oxygen is critical to treating severely ill COVID-19 patients who have begun to suffocate because the virus has inflamed their lungs. Los Angeles Times, "Overwhelmed L.A. hospitals brace for post-Christmas COVID wave," 26 Dec. 2020 Diatoms pump oxygen into the lakes as well—without them, the lakes would suffocate. Tim Folger, National Geographic, "North America’s most valuable resource is at risk," 17 Nov. 2020 Horticultural oil to suffocate scale, whiteflies, mealy bugs and other tiny pests that overwinter in the bark. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Check off these December garden chores for a parade of blooms in spring," 5 Dec. 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

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Suffocate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

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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 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

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