Definition of stiff in English:


Syllabification: stiff
Pronunciation: /stif


  • 1Not easily bent or changed in shape; rigid: a stiff black collar stiff cardboard
    More example sentences
    • He's wearing a white shirt with a stiff collar, black trousers with braces, and dancing shoes with leather spats.
    • The plans are in PDF format for easy printing and pasting onto stiff cardboard.
    • The duo have dispensed with plastic CD casings and fashioned their covers from stiff cardboard.
  • 1.1(Of a semiliquid substance) viscous; thick: add wheat until the mixture is quite stiff
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    • Mix together roughly four tablespoons of flour and one tablespoon of water with enough water to form a paste - a thick, stiff paste will give you a raised cross and a looser paste will give you a flat cross.
    • Whisk together the double and single cream until thick, but not stiff: this takes longer than usual because of the addition of the single cream.
    • In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until thick and stiff.
    semisolid, viscous, viscid, thick, stiffened, firm
  • 1.2Not moving as freely as is usual or desirable; difficult to turn or operate: a stiff drawer the faucet in the shower is a little stiff
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    • It is harder for them to dress in and out of equipment, propel themselves through the water and operate stiff power inflators or releases, for example.
    • Typical aging of these windows involves corrosion of the metal, stiff operation, inability to close and multiple layers of paint.
  • 1.3(Of a person or part of the body) unable to move easily and without pain: he was stiff from sitting on the desk a stiff back
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    • ‘My body was very stiff at first especially because of my old age,’ Shen said.
    • A little into the morning saw all of us grimacing over our stiff bodies - the outcome of the previous day's water pursuits!
    • He was weak and his aching body was still stiff from the beating.
    aching, achy, painful; arthritic, rheumatic
    informal creaky, rusty
  • 1.4(Of a person or their manner) not relaxed or friendly; constrained: she greeted him with stiff politeness
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    • Corrissa's stiff manner left her, and she ran frantically towards the door and immediately started pounding on it.
    • You have a melancholy disposition resulting in a shyness, or a formal and stiff manner of presenting yourself.
    • Mel had never particularly liked the woman's stiff manner and perfect outward appearance.
    formal, reserved, unfriendly, chilly, cold, frigid, icy, austere, wooden, forced, strained, stilted
    informal starchy, uptight, standoffish
  • 2Severe or strong: they face stiff fines and a possible jail sentence a stiff increase in taxes
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    • He was tried and found guilty by a British Consular Court: his punishment was a stiff fine and probation with a stern warning to desist.
    • The league should be proud of that, not hiding behind stiff fines and harsh rhetoric.
    • That commission recommended stiff increases in the payroll tax to create a surplus that would help fund the retirement of baby boomers down the road.
    harsh, severe, heavy, crippling, punishing, stringent, drastic, draconian
  • 2.1(Of a wind) blowing strongly: a stiff breeze stirring the lake
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    • As he spoke, it seemed the gods were heeding the many prayers at the Cork venue, as the sun shone brightly and a stiff wind blew on the opening day.
    • The Pope, who aides say is losing sleep over the possibility of war, celebrated a Mass that began with a stiff wind blowing in from Siberia over the flat steppes and ended in sunshine.
    • A stiff wind blew through the woods, ruffling their hair.
    strong, fresh, brisk
  • 2.2Requiring strength or effort; difficult: a long stiff climb up the bare hillside
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    • However, outside of China, in Japan for instance, such an effort will meet stiff resistance from habit users and from simple economic forces.
    • From there a very stiff climb through what is still called ‘Sullivan road’ took us to Kundhesappe and then to Doddabetta foothill.
    • Once more, firm sand provided a gentle walking surface until almost the end of the beach, where we rested before the short but stiff climb to the heathland above the cliffs.
  • 2.3(Of an alcoholic drink) strong: a stiff measure of brandy
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    • I don't drink at lunchtime but I like a stiff whisky at 6.30 in the evening and perhaps another later on.
    • The General was pouring himself a stiff brandy with shaking hands.
    • Bowles reassures her with a stiff whisky and a clipped certainty that everything will be back to normal tomorrow.
    strong, potent, alcoholic
  • 3 [predic.] (stiff with) • informal Full of: the place is stiff with alarm systems
  • 4 (—— stiff) • informal Having a specified unpleasant feeling to an extreme extent: she was scared stiff I was bored stiff with my project
    More example sentences
    • I cannot speak for Xander, but I was still scared stiff.
    • "They'll see that in the paper and think I'm scared stiff," he said.
    • Andy pleaded from the hallway seeming utterly scared stiff.
  • 5 Bridge A card that is the only one of its suit in a hand: two red aces and a stiff club


informal Back to top  
  • 1A dead body.
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    • When the bodies of various stiffs start disappearing from the local morgue, the police are baffled as to where they've gone.
    • There's a whole craft industry based on vehicles for transferring stiffs from the chapel to the boneyard.
    • A friend of my father's worked for the London Transport Police and part of his job involved scraping stiffs off the tracks.
  • 2chiefly North American A boring, conventional person: ordinary working stiffs in respectable offices
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    • So, unlike the bigwigs who cashed in big on stock options, look for him to remain a working stiff.
    • Never have the ordinary people of America, the decent, working stiffs, needed and deserved a great tribute more urgently.
    • Don't trust that future working stiffs will pay your way - the system may be entirely different by then!
  • 2.1A fellow; an ordinary person: the lucky stiff!
    More example sentences
    • I would issue a fiat that the NFL has to change its overtime rule, so that both teams must be given a chance to score, not just the lucky stiffs who win the coin flip.


[with object] informal Back to top  
  • 1North American Cheat (someone) out of something, especially money: several workers were stiffed out of their pay
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    • We do know they have been steadily alienating your regular customers, stiffing them on money owed, making a terrible mess of the legitimate business, while all the while on paper your company is soaring.
    • After the media glare faded, the team was stiffed for $43,000 of the prize money.
    • If people are unaware, it is a crime to stiff people on wages, even the homeless.
  • 1.1Fail to leave (someone) a tip.
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    • "Sending a message" by stiffing a rude waiter or bellhop does not work.
    • I can tell you I never stiffed a waiter in a French restaurant.
    • Every morning the same four guys came in, ate the same eggs-and-potatoes configurations, repeated the same harangue about how I was personally responsible for their lack of overtime, and stiffed me.
  • 2North American Ignore deliberately; snub.
    More example sentences
    • And in this case, he was very interested in all of the questions, did not stiff them or brush them off.
    • But to follow up on Bernie's question, does the vice president pay a price for stiffing the press as he has done for two months now?
    • And yet, he stiffed the police for a couple of months and, even to this day, has not spoken out publicly.
  • 2.1Fail to appear for a promised engagement or appointment: he stiffed us and didn’t show up
  • 3Kill: I want to get those pigs who stiffed your doctor
  • 3.1 [no object] Be unsuccessful: as soon as he began singing about the wife and kids, his albums stiffed
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    • I'll bet you his last album was more successful than an American superstar whose last album stiffed.
    • Ultimately, we wound up doing one television show as guild members, the record started stiffing and the band broke up.
    • It stiffed, but his performance sticks in the memory and it's that ability which will see him through any critical fall-out.


stiff as a board

informal (Of a person or part of the body) extremely stiff.
More example sentences
  • He would lay in his bed flat on his back, stiff as a board, tightly clutching his blanket with the fingers of both hands.
  • Dustin fought to stay up, to stay stiff as a board, but eventually the bear succeeded in knocking him over.
  • I made my back as stiff as a board, glaring the whole while at the poor boy.

a stiff upper lip

A quality of uncomplaining stoicism: senior managers had to keep a stiff upper lip and remain optimistic
More example sentences
  • Upper-class Englishmen pride themselves on discretion and a stiff upper lip, deeply unfashionable human qualities in these tabloid times.
  • But, if the governing class goes about business as usual, that's not a stiff upper lip but a death wish.
  • Most of the women were crying, but I kept a stiff upper lip.
keep control of oneself, not show emotion, appear unaffected
informal keep one's cool



More example sentences
  • The sides were tied and the former Ryan Cup champions faced into a stiffish breeze for the second period.
  • Drain well and mash, adding the other ingredients, forming a stiffish dough.
  • A rather stiffish breeze blew from the town end of the grounds, which the winners had first use of.


More example sentences
  • He smiled stiffly and slowly moved his arm so that it was extended out in front of him.
  • They stood stiffly at attention, rifles in hand, guarding the gates of their establishment.
  • Uniforms were white, shirts stiffly starched, and caps tilted by gloved hands.


More example sentences
  • The head is slightly bowed, but the body is upright, without a trace of military rigidity or stiffness.
  • Other symptoms include muscle rigidity or stiffness and slow movement.
  • But her natural dignity, verging on stiffness, and a strong sense of duty, made her fill the role well.


Old English stīf, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch stijf.

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