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[stif-uh n] /ˈstɪf ən/
verb (used with object)
to make stiff.
verb (used without object)
to become stiff.
to become suddenly tense, rigid, or taut, as in bracing oneself for or drawing back from shock, fear, or displeasure:
He stiffened, expecting to hear the worst.
Origin of stiffen
1490-1500; stiff + -en1
Related forms
overstiffen, verb
unstiffened, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for stiffen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He tried mixing in various things to stiffen up the pyroxylin.

    Creative Chemistry Edwin E. Slosson
  • Even as he held it up for all of them to see, his limbs began to jerk and stiffen.

    The Trail Book Mary Austin
  • He reviewed this study to stiffen the back-bone of his power of Attention.

    Assimilative Memory Marcus Dwight Larrowe (AKA Prof. A. Loisette)
  • But they seemed to her to stiffen, against her will, and her embrace was surely mechanical.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
  • Mr. Buxton stopped abruptly, and the two men drew themselves up and seemed to stiffen, ever so slightly.

    By What Authority? Robert Hugh Benson
  • And all the time his eyes were upon his wife, and I saw her stiffen as if she had been struck.

    The Strolling Saint Raphael Sabatini
  • Marie, lay your hand on mine and leave it there until mine begins to stiffen.

  • White and tense, her hands clenched, Rosamund seemed to stiffen before him.

    The Sea-Hawk Raphael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for stiffen


to make or become stiff or stiffer
(intransitive) to become suddenly tense or unyielding
Derived Forms
stiffener, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for stiffen

1590s, from stiff (adj.) + -en (1). Related: Stiffened; stiffening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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