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Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English smothren, smortheren, alteration (due to smother, smorther (a suffocating vapour, dense smoke, noun)) of Middle English smoren (to smother), from Old English smorian (to smother, suffocate, choke), from Proto-Germanic *smurōną (to suffocate, strangle), probably related to *smallijan (to burn) or Old English smoca (smoke).[1]

Cognate with Middle Low German smoren, smurten (to choke, suffocate), West Flemish smoren (to smoke, reek), Dutch smoren (to suffocate, smother", also "to stew, simmer), German schmoren (to stew, simmer, braise).


smother (third-person singular simple present smothers, present participle smothering, simple past and past participle smothered)

  1. (transitive) To suffocate; stifle; obstruct, more or less completely, the respiration of something or someone.
    He smothered her by pressing his hand over her mouth.
  2. (transitive) To extinguish or deaden, as fire, by covering, overlaying, or otherwise excluding the air.
    to smother a fire with ashes
  3. (transitive) To reduce to a low degree of vigor or activity; suppress or do away with; extinguish
    Synonyms: stifle, cover up, conceal, hide
    The committee's report was smothered.
  4. (transitive, cooking) To cook in a close dish.
    beefsteak smothered with onions
  5. (transitive) To daub or smear.
  6. (intransitive) To be suffocated.
    She is smothered by the rope.
  7. (intransitive) To breathe with great difficulty by reason of smoke, dust, close covering or wrapping, or the like.
  8. (intransitive, of a fire) to burn very slowly for want of air; smolder.
  9. (intransitive, figuratively) to perish, grow feeble, or decline, by suppression or concealment; be stifled; be suppressed or concealed.
  10. (soccer) To get in the way of a kick of the ball.
    • 2011 December 27, Mike Henson, “Norwich 0 - 2 Tottenham”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Emmanuel Adebayor's touch proved a fraction heavy as he guided Van der Vaart's exquisite long ball round John Ruddy, before the goalkeeper did well to smother Bale's shot from Modric's weighted pass.
  11. (Australian rules football) To get in the way of a kick of the ball, preventing it going very far. When a player is kicking the ball, an opponent who is close enough will reach out with his hands and arms to get over the top of it, so the ball hits his hands after leaving the kicker's boot, dribbling away.
  12. (boxing) To prevent the development of an opponent's attack by one's arm positioning.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English smother, smorther (a suffocating vapour, dense smoke), from Old English smorþor (smoke, literally that which suffocates), from smorian (to suffocate, choke) + -þor (instrumental suffix).


smother (plural smothers)

  1. That which smothers or appears to smother, particularly
    1. Smoldering; slow combustion.
    2. Cookware used in such cooking.
    3. (dated) The state of being stifled; suppression.
    4. (dated) Stifling smoke; thick dust.
      • c. 1598–1600, William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii], lines 239-40:
        Thus must I from the smoke into the smother, / From tyrant duke unto tyrant brother.
      • 1868, Judy (volumes 3-4, page 20)
        Then we passed the Grand Opéra, at which our fine taste revolted; the Rue de la Paix, all in a smother with the dust caused by its improvement, at which our eyes naturally distilled water; []
    5. (Australian rules football) The act of smothering a kick (see verb section).


  1. ^ van der Sijs, Nicoline, editor (2010), “smoren”, in Etymologiebank, Meertens Institute