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 Dickinson siblings proceed to fight over Sue, who then complains of them suffocating her. Kristin Vartan,, "The Dickinson recap binge guide: Episodes 1-10," 11 Nov. 2019 When did Liverpool go from being consistently worse than Tottenham to finishing a full 26 points above them and suffocating them in a European Cup final?, "Liverpool & Tottenham Are Heading in Completely Different Directions After Years as Rivals," 29 Oct. 2019 That would include Angela McAnulty, who tortured and starved her 15-year-old daughter, and Billy Lee Oatney Jr., who raped and tortured Susi Larsen in 1996 before suffocating her with a garbage bag., "The back-alley mugging of the death penalty: Steve Duin," 16 Aug. 2019 Bosco was returned to the jail and may have intentionally suffocated himself while eating a sandwich, Crum said. Bay City News Service, The Mercury News, "Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office IDs inmate found dead in cell," 18 July 2019 The swarming insects had suffocated them by blocking their airways, said Ms. Berg, 42. Kris Maher, WSJ, "The Black Fly Is Here for Your Blood—and Dignity," 16 June 2019 Greek officials say Suzanne Eaton was suffocated to death and then dumped in the dank, labyrinthine World War II-era bunker. CBS News, "American scientist murdered in Crete suffered a slow death, forensic pathologists say," 12 July 2019 Also in the group are some family members of people who died — including Carmen Berriz, who suffocated in her husband’s arms in a pool at a Santa Rosa vacation rental. J.d. Morris,, "PG&E’s role in the 2017 Tubbs Fire on track for trial in January," 16 Sep. 2019 In addition to the clutch kicking game, the Wolf Pack's defense was suffocating in its first game. Si Wire,, "Nevada vs. Oregon Live Stream: Watch Online, TV Channel, Start Time," 7 Sep. 2019

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

18 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Suffocate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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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