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 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 Prosecutors say Dibiah, 37, used a plastic bag to suffocate his son at a west-side apartment on July 18. Vic Ryckaert, The Indianapolis Star, "Trial is set for father accused of killing 10-year-old Nakota Kelly," 10 Sep. 2020 If mistakes are made, the Soviet officer will suffocate the American hero with his socks. Andrada Fiscutean, Ars Technica, "How Indiana Jones, Rambo, and others ended up in 1980s Czechoslovak text-adventures," 23 Oct. 2020 The tree tries to suffocate the insects by secreting resin into the beetles’ boreholes. Hillary Rosner, National Geographic, "A tiny pest helped stoke this year’s devastating wildfires," 1 Oct. 2020 The clams were slow to return because the dredging had left behind bottom sediments so soft that mature clams would sink and suffocate. Mark Schleifstein,, "MR-GO closure improving environment, but more wetlands, swamp restoration needed: report," 3 Oct. 2020 So now there’s the whole farce about student athletes, which was a term created just to continue to suffocate the players with amateurism. Washington Post, "Q&A with Jalen Rose: ‘If you get a chance to step on the NBA court even once, that’s a successful life’," 18 Sep. 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

8 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Suffocate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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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 suffocate (audio) \ adjective

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