Definition of smother in English:



  • 1Kill (someone) by covering their nose and mouth so that they suffocate.

    ‘I dreamt a stranger was trying to kill me by smothering me with a pillow’
    • ‘I put my hand over her mouth, not hard enough to smother her, but firmly enough to give her the message not to speak.’
    • ‘Porter was asked if he wanted to comment on the pathologist's opinion that his daughter was probably killed by being smothered.’
    • ‘It was claimed she had smothered baby Christopher at the family's home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and either did the same to Harry or shook him to death.’
    • ‘He told the trial at Reading Crown Court he could find ‘no clear evidence’ to suggest that any of Patel's three babies had been smothered or deliberately suffocated.’
    • ‘Without even asking Desdemona if it is true or not, Othello kills her by smothering her.’
    suffocate, stifle, asphyxiate, choke, throttle, strangle, strangulate
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    1. 1.1 Make (someone) feel trapped and oppressed by acting in an overly protective manner towards them.
      ‘it's time for you to leave the house—she'll smother you if you remain’
      • ‘How I am supposed to suppress my overwhelming urge to smother every guy I become involved with?’
      • ‘But regardless, now Olivia feels smothered by the overly protective nature of her father's attentions.’
      • ‘Still I was surrounded by women and smothered with affection.’
      • ‘She fell for me fairly quickly, and frankly, for the first two months of our relationship, she was the pursuer and I often complained that I felt smothered and overwhelmed by her.’
      • ‘Darnell's sultriness is smothering and disturbing, elemental in the manner of King Vidor heroines.’
      overwhelm, inundate, envelop, trap, surround, cocoon
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  • 2Extinguish (a fire) by covering it.

    ‘use a fire blanket to smother a chip-pan fire’
    • ‘One way to smother a small fire is to cover it with a heavy blanket.’
    • ‘There had been attempts to smother the fire, but it had caused it to only burn stronger than before.’
    • ‘Extinguish or smother the fire on the drapes with wet towels and water.’
    • ‘The pilots took it up to 1000-ft or so and released the fire retardant that smothered the fire and left only smoke trailing out.’
    • ‘But once we got some foam to cover the bulk of the fire and smother the flames we were able to bring it under control much quicker.’
    extinguish, put out, snuff out, dampen, damp down, stamp out, douse, choke
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    1. 2.1 Suppress (a feeling or action)
      ‘she smothered a sigh’
      • ‘Jolted out of my hard-earned sleep, I sat back on the bench and smothered a yawn, hoping that Madam wouldn't see.’
      • ‘Tayrah took a deep breath and smothered the anger she felt approaching and then quickly changed the subject.’
      • ‘‘the state can sometimes become part of the problem, by smothering the enthusiasm of its citizens’.’
      • ‘I had realized he was special then, but I smothered the feeling.’
      • ‘Maybe trying to smother your feelings right now is not the healthiest thing for you.’
      stifle, muffle, strangle, gag, restrain, repress, suppress, hold back, keep back, fight back, choke back, bite back, swallow, contain, bottle up, conceal, hide
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    2. 2.2 (in sport) stop the motion of (the ball or a shot)
      ‘the goalkeeper was able to smother the ball’
      • ‘The first half passed with few chances for either side, although Martin Taylor in the Wycombe goal distinguished himself by twice dashing out to smother the ball at Owen's feet.’
      • ‘O'Flynn was in again after 18 minutes, but this time Walshe was able to smother his shot at the edge of the penalty area, but it was so close that Bray manager Pat Devlin reacted immediately.’
      • ‘He tries to walk the ball into the net in typical Portuguese fashion and Dudek gets down well to smother the ball at his feet.’
      • ‘The house was quiet except for the sobs she smothered against his chest.’
      • ‘Hanson won the ball in a tackle and fed Longley but again the keeper was able to smother his shot.’
  • 3smother someone/something in/withCover someone or something entirely with.

    ‘rich orange sorbets smothered in fluffy whipped cream’
    • ‘Rich city parents smother their children with cash and cars and innumerable liberties to take their lives ‘in their own hands'. These are the same parents who forget that their kid can't add 24 and 42 in his head.’
    • ‘When I was asked to cover a Territorial Army competition I jumped at the chance of donning Army fatigues and smothering my face in camouflage paint.’
    • ‘The most popular theory is that a cloud of dust smothered the earth in a thick haze that would have blocked out the sun.’
    • ‘He didn't notice the ‘buffalo ‘flavor on the chicken because he smothered the sandwich in BBQ sauce.’’
    • ‘When that wasn't enough, he then smothered the man in makeup, a cumbersome costume, and ludicrous prosthetics.’
    • ‘Sue is my Dad's girlfriend, Sharon is her daughter, and the girls are her 13 year old Grandchildren that smother my Dad with kisses.’
    • ‘In July, crews fighting a blaze in a three-acre manure lagoon at a dairy farm in Washington smothered the flames with more of the same - a blanket of wet cow manure.’
    • ‘Stallman believed that when commercial companies smother their software with patents and copyrights, everybody loses.’
    • ‘David lowered his mouth onto Trixie's, then smothered her entire face with kisses.’
    • ‘This verse was particularly grim: ‘You are my true love, I want to smother your face with kisses.’’
    smear, daub, bedaub, spread, cover
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    1. 3.1 Cook in a covered container.
      ‘smothered fried chicken’


  • A mass of something that stifles or obscures.

    ‘all this vanished in a smother of foam’
    • ‘Live not in continual smother, but take some friends with whom to communicate.’
    • ‘The next morning the sun finally drilled a tunnel through the smother of clouds that squatted on the plain so low I stooped when I got into my Bronco.’


Middle English (as a noun in the sense ‘stifling smoke’): from the base of Old English smorian ‘suffocate’.