Definition of stiffen in English:



  • 1Make or become stiff or rigid.

    [with object] ‘he stiffened his knees in an effort to prevent them trembling’
    [no object] ‘my back stiffens up and I can't bend’
    • ‘His knee also stiffens up after training, so it needs sorting out because it's an annoying problem.’
    • ‘Her body stiffened slightly at the mention of that name.’
    • ‘He looked at me, and even though he smiled, I could see his posture visibly stiffen.’
    • ‘Did his face stiffen for a moment there or was it just my imagination?’
    • ‘For one precious moment the air filled with dragonfly hatchlings, their limp wings stiffening in the sun, performing aerobatic exercises before migrating down to the river.’
    • ‘That's impressive for a man his age - perhaps, like me, he has a bad back that stiffens up when he sits.’
    • ‘He stiffened visibly, and stood there rigid, unsure of how to react.’
    • ‘The tallow and the beeswax was not able to be hardened and stiffened and this led to the invention of the moulding machine by Joseph Morgan in 1834.’
    • ‘He suddenly stiffened up, looking at her as if he had just stepped across some kind of social boundary.’
    • ‘I heard the deep rumble of Michael's voice and I immediately stiffened up.’
    • ‘She stiffened for a second, but then relaxed in his arms.’
    • ‘He knows when to explode into the shot - when the defender is off balance or has stiffened his knees or has moved in too close.’
    • ‘She tried to maneuver him to a dumpy sofa studded with a gaudy pattern of crimson roses, but Jack stiffened his knees.’
    • ‘Her shoulders stiffened at his words, puzzling him.’
    • ‘She grabbed my hand and my body stiffened even further.’
    • ‘The Queen heard it as well, for Margaret saw her shoulders stiffen almost imperceptibly.’
    • ‘She tried to stand up, but her already tense muscles had stiffened considerably during the flight.’
    • ‘The smaller muscles in the face and between the fingers start stiffening between two and four hours after death.’
    • ‘Nicole followed my gaze, and I saw her visibly stiffen at the sight of her sister.’
    • ‘Hold a magnet nearby and the bits of iron will line up end-to-end; they form a rigid lattice that stiffens the mixture.’
    become stiff, thicken
    become rigid, become stiff, make rigid, make stiff, tighten, tauten
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    1. 1.1[with object]Support or strengthen (a garment or fabric), typically by adding tape or an adhesive layer.
      • ‘The next essential garment was the corset stiffened with thin strips of whalebone.’
      • ‘He exaggerated the hips with panniered silk skirts, and skirts were stiffened into subtle bell shapes.’
      • ‘Thicker foam also will stiffen the base fabric more than thin foam and requires the stability of heavy fabric, such as denim.’
      • ‘The sealant stiffens the fabric and prevents the threads from showing through the stitching.’
    2. 1.2Make or become stronger or more steadfast.
      [with object] ‘outrage over the murders stiffened the government's resolve to confront the Mafia’
      [no object] ‘the regime's resistance stiffened’
      • ‘And strikes can backfire: lack of public support can stiffen government resolve.’
      • ‘Although we could not get to Seville and be part of the 100,000-strong march, the events have only stiffened our determination in fighting capitalism.’
      • ‘At the same time, the Israeli position has stiffened.’
      • ‘But Hitler's forces were regrouping, and as the Allies pushed nearer to Germany's borders, German resistance stiffened.’
      • ‘Legislation that will stiffen the penalties for the offences of kidnapping and false imprisonment ought to be passed.’
      • ‘Little opposition was encountered at first, but resistance stiffened along the Litani river and Vichy troops counter-attacked at Merjayun and Kuneitra.’
      • ‘Once the Allies were on German territory, enemy resistance stiffened.’
      • ‘We can hope for an early end to the destruction, but as resistance stiffens that prospect is by no means certain.’
      • ‘European governments are stiffening their resistance to war in Iraq in advance of the weapons inspectors' report to the United Nations security council tomorrow.’
      • ‘It took four hours for British paratroopers to reach the bridges on foot, by which time German resistance was already stiffening.’
      • ‘But as the Japanese imperium widened, Chinese resistance stiffened.’
      • ‘Japanese banks, besieged by requests to waive corporate debts, can stiffen their resolve to resist.’
      • ‘Half a dozen scandalous cases after 1780 illustrated the difficulties and stiffened foreign resistance to Chinese jurisdiction.’
      • ‘On the other hand, this intimate contact with war can stiffen your resolve.’
      • ‘Politicians stiffen penalties, and the police increase man-hours and arrests.’
      • ‘After the German Army was chased across France, resistance began to stiffen.’
      • ‘Total surprise was achieved, but resistance soon stiffened.’
      • ‘Progressive Democrats revolted in the House caucus, stiffening resistance to the Republican bill.’
      • ‘It's personal, and you can sense, amidst the all the uncertainty and trepidation, American resolve stiffening.’
      strengthen, harden, toughen, fortify, give strength to, reinforce, brace, steel, give a boost to
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