Definition of suffocate in US English:



  • 1Die or cause to die from lack of air or inability to breathe.

    no object ‘they suffocated in their sleep’
    with object ‘she was suffocated by the fumes’
    • ‘Another major bee pest is the tracheal mite, which gets inside adult bees and clogs their breathing tubes, essentially suffocating the insects.’
    • ‘Dozens of boys and men suffocated to death, locked for days in an airless, sweltering shipping container by rebels controlling northern Ivory Coast, two survivors said.’
    • ‘At least 14 people were killed in the incident, including two small children who suffocated when teargas was shot into their homes.’
    • ‘En route, approximately half of the captives suffocated or were killed by shots fired by soldiers into the airtight containers.’
    • ‘The girls, aged three and four, were suffocated by fumes from the fire which started in the ground-floor flat of the three storey Victorian house in Osterley Road.’
    • ‘While climbing out of the window, his neck got stuck and it appears he was unable to breathe and suffocated.’
    • ‘That day she suffocated her son and then tried to kill herself.’
    • ‘Friends of my family who were taken prisoner during the Bay of Pigs invasion suffocated to death in airless trucks as they were being transported to detention.’
    • ‘As I, along with half the nation, waited, hardly daring to breathe, the announcement came that little Kathy had suffocated.’
    • ‘Twenty-one children were killed, most of them suffocated, and 47 others were injured when a guardrail gave way on a dark stairwell at a school during a power blackout last Monday.’
    • ‘Unable to surface to breathe, they suffocate and drown and are eventually washed onto the beaches along the coast here.’
    • ‘About ten people a year in the UK die from suffocating after having an allergic reaction to something they ate.’
    • ‘Two of those killed were children, aged two and five, who suffocated when teargas was fired at the picket line.’
    • ‘I have been choked and almost suffocated to death during that time, all the while, more concerned about the well being of others than for myself.’
    • ‘The little girl had been molested and asphyxiated, suffocated to death.’
    • ‘A post-mortem examination showed he was asphyxiated, or suffocated.’
    • ‘SIDS, also called crib death or cot death, occurs when babies suffocate accidentally or stop breathing in an event called sleep apnea.’
    • ‘The men reportedly suffocated after being held for hours in a vehicle that lacked oxygen.’
    • ‘They might have suffered from lack of air in the crowded trucks and suffocated,’ the doctor said.’
    • ‘They are constrictors; they suffocate their prey by coiling around it and squeezing.’
    smother, asphyxiate, stifle
    be smothered, asphyxiate, be stifled
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Have or cause to have difficulty in breathing.
      no object ‘he was suffocating, his head jammed up against the back of the sofa’
      with object ‘you're suffocating me—I can scarcely breathe’
      ‘the suffocating heat’
      • ‘In the opinion of these writers, sleepers in stuffy rooms were slowly suffocating in a toxic fog of their own breath, sweat, and flatulence.’
      • ‘She shuddered remembering the last time she had missed the early bus and how she had had to sit beside some guy wearing so much cologne she thought that she would suffocate from lack of real air.’
      • ‘When Logan got off the plane he was completely stifled by the suffocating heat of Michigan.’
      • ‘The air was close and suffocating in the black car, as she drove aimlessly down the interstate, trying to flee from all her memories and the life that was sucking all the wants and needs from her that once made her happy.’
      • ‘His legs had become trapped and the equipment was suffocating him.’
      • ‘Scheele described the chlorine gas formed as having a greenish yellow color and a suffocating odor ‘most oppressive to the lungs.’’
      • ‘The muggy, early-September night had descended on the suburban neighborhood, suffocating and heavy.’
      • ‘This remarkable evocation of childhood is set in an Italian hamlet during the hottest summer on record - the suffocating heat a perfect backdrop to the claustrophobic tension of the story.’
      • ‘He held her so close she nearly suffocated on his jacket.’
      • ‘The simplest is that for resuscitating those who have been temporarily suffocated by choking up the throat.’
      • ‘Caked in cracked dirt and seeping sweat, crawling on all fours, suffocating from the heat, and trying to avoid startled lizards and bats, I cannot help but feel that I am glad they widened the tunnels for us.’
      • ‘Their stench was suffocating at close range, and the ground trembled beneath each thunderous footstep.’
      • ‘Exhaust fumes from cars and factories make for a toxic, suffocating smog that hangs over the city.’
      • ‘I couldn't breathe, the fumes were suffocating me.’
      • ‘To complete the whole, the windows were all closed and the air suffocating.’
      • ‘The heat had suddenly become unbearable; he thought he might suffocate at any moment.’
      • ‘Have mercy on me for I am suffocated with this heat.’
      • ‘The climbers reach the peak after much struggle, but as they make their way back down, the weather closes in with suffocating intensity.’
      • ‘Sometimes she would wake at night unable to breathe, terrified she was suffocating.’
      • ‘An aching in my chest, so intense, so powerful and paralysing: I was suffocating, couldn't breathe, smoke was filling my mouth.’
      be breathless, be short of air, struggle for air
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Feel or cause to feel trapped and oppressed.
      ‘I felt suffocated by my marriage’
      • ‘One gets the sense that he finds the Western episteme constraining, if not suffocating, in its insistence upon the ideological hold and closure of meaning.’
      • ‘What one generation considers the very definition of success - a steady job and a roof over one's head - the next often finds constricting, if not suffocating.’
      • ‘Trapped, suffocating, and every other clichéd word one can look up in the thesaurus to describe being stranded in this small terraced island in the Pacific.’
      • ‘In her work she constructs a world that is airless and suffocating.’
      • ‘Each small change is difficult to argue against but the overall effect is suffocating for the people we then expect to provide a decent public service.’
      • ‘He felt like he was suffocating under his father's oppression.’
      • ‘Kids today are rarely allowed to follow their imaginations outdoors without close, almost suffocating, supervision.’
      • ‘What Maryna is leaving behind is not obscurity but an oppressive, suffocating fame; not poverty but tiresome social privilege.’
      • ‘Between them, they have so eroded Kate's confidence and self-esteem that she is incapable of taking control of her own life, and she is trapped in an increasingly suffocating existence as she grows to adulthood.’
      • ‘Perhaps David and his like will only be happy when they are known as ‘Citizen 326789’ or some similar Orwellian label that suffocates what remains of individual freedom.’
      • ‘The agency also places suffocating constrictions on the press vis-à-vis the Imperial Family.’
      • ‘The film's entertainment value is suffocated and the lack of individual character development means that the viewer's empathy in these heart-rending scenes is nonexistent.’
      • ‘Although, the holes in the watery Wicklow defence were initially plugged, the problem of their inability to create scoreable chances was still suffocating their performance.’
      • ‘The courtyard was completely silent, as it had been earlier, but now the silence seemed oppressive, suffocating.’
      • ‘One gruesome scene is shot behind an oppressive red filter, visually suffocating the viewer.’
      • ‘Almost everybody used it, in every conceivable situation, and constantly, in such a way as would oppress and suffocate us could we go back in time and live in that environment.’
      • ‘She couldn't find anything out of order, but sometimes she felt oppressed, suffocated.’
      • ‘This feels like improvisation, so naturally have they found the heart of the scores and the recording is excellent as well, close without suffocating the listener or the music, detail with air around it.’
      • ‘The loneliness that had been pervading my life and slowly suffocating me was now lifting, and I could breathe freely again.’
      • ‘I felt I was being trapped, suffocated by their delighted chatter and effusion.’


Late 15th century (earlier ( late Middle English) as suffocation): from Latin suffocat- ‘stifled’, from the verb suffocare, from sub- ‘below’ + fauces ‘throat’.