Definition of stiff in English:

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Pronunciation: /stɪf/


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.
rigid, hard, firm, hardened, inelastic, non-flexible, inflexible, ungiving
rare impliable, unmalleable
1.1(Of a semi-liquid substance) viscous; thick: add wheat until the mixture is quite stiff
More example sentences
  • 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.
1.2Not moving as freely as is usual or desirable; difficult to turn or operate: a stiff drawer the shower tap is a little stiff
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • ‘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;
taut, tight
informal creaky, rheumaticky, rusty
archaic stark
1.4(Of a person or their manner) not relaxed or friendly; constrained: she greeted him with stiff politeness
More example sentences
  • 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, unrelaxed, brittle, stand-offish, wooden, forced, constrained, strained, stilted;
prim, punctilious, stuffy
informal starchy, uptight
2Severe or strong: they face stiff fines and a possible jail sentence a stiff increase in taxes
More example sentences
  • 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, hard, punitive, punishing, stringent, swingeing, crippling, rigorous, drastic, strong, heavy, draconian
2.1(Of a wind) blowing strongly: a stiff breeze stirring the lake
More example sentences
  • 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, vigorous, powerful, brisk, fresh, gusty;
2.2Requiring strength or effort; difficult: a long stiff climb up the bare hillside
More example sentences
  • 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.
difficult, hard, arduous, tough, strenuous, laborious, uphill, exacting, demanding, formidable, challenging, punishing, back-breaking, gruelling, Herculean;
tiring, fatiguing, exhausting
informal killing, hellish
British informal knackering
archaic toilsome
2.3(Of an alcoholic drink) strong: a stiff measure of brandy
More example sentences
  • 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, spirituous, intoxicant
3 (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.


1A dead body.
Example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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!
3 (the stiffs) British A sports club’s reserve team.
Example sentences
  • And unfortunately that's what we saw from Becks in the Portsmouth game so that explains why I dropped him to play with the stiffs when the first team was at Blackburn.
  • And, if he did not play ball, they could play him in the stiffs.


[with object] informal
1North American Cheat (someone) out of something, especially money: several workers were stiffed out of their pay
More example sentences
  • 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.
Example sentences
  • "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 (someone) deliberately; snub: the stars are notorious for stiffing their hosts and sponsors at banquets
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.
3Kill (someone): the girl was found stiffed in an air-conditioning duct
3.1 [no object] (Of a commercial venture or product) be unsuccessful: as soon as he began singing about the wife and kids, his albums stiffed
More example sentences
  • 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.
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.



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.


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

  • An Old English word, stiff goes back to a Germanic root meaning ‘inflexible’ and shares an Indo-European ancestry with Latin stipare ‘press, pack’ source of constipate (Late Middle English) and via Spanish the stevedore (late 18th century) who packs away cargo. As a noun meaning ‘a dead body’ it dates back to the USA of the 1850s. The stiffs, meaning the reserve team of a sports club, is a 1950s use. See also starve.

    The stiff upper lip, a quality of uncomplaining stoicism so often thought of as peculiarly British is apparently North American in origin. The earliest recorded example is from the US writer John Neal's novel The Down Easters (1833): ‘What's the use o' boo-hooin’?…Keep a stiff upper lip; no bones broke.’

Words that rhyme with stiff

biff, cliff, glyph, if, kif, miff, niff, quiff, riff, skew-whiff, skiff, sniff, spliff, tiff, whiff

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: stiff

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