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From Old English stīf, from Proto-Germanic *stīfaz (compare Dutch stijf, German steif), from Proto-Indo-European *steypos (compare Latin stīpes, stīpō, from which English stevedore).



stiff (comparative stiffer, superlative stiffest)

  1. (of an object) Rigid, hard to bend, inflexible.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter IX, in The Younger Set (Project Gutenberg; EBook #14852), New York, N.Y.: A. L. Burt Company, published 1 February 2005 (Project Gutenberg version), OCLC 4241346:
      “A tight little craft,” was Austin’s invariable comment on the matron; []. ¶ Near her wandered her husband, orientally bland, invariably affable, and from time to time squinting sideways, as usual, in the ever-renewed expectation that he might catch a glimpse of his stiff, retroussé moustache.
  2. (figuratively, of policies and rules and their application and enforcement) Inflexible; rigid.
  3. (of a person) Formal in behavior; unrelaxed.
  4. (colloquial) Harsh, severe.
    He was eventually caught, and given a stiff fine.
  5. (of muscles or parts of the body) Painful as a result of excessive or unaccustomed exercise.
    My legs are stiff after climbing that hill yesterday.
  6. Potent.
    a stiff drink;  a stiff dose;  a stiff breeze.
  7. Dead, deceased.
  8. (of a penis) Erect.
  9. (cooking, of whipping cream or egg whites) Beaten until so aerated that they stand up straight on their own.
    beat the egg whites until they are stiff
  10. (mathematics) Of an equation: for which certain numerical solving methods are numerically unstable, unless the step size is taken to be extremely small.


Derived terms[edit]


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stiff (plural stiffs)

  1. An average person, usually male, of no particular distinction, skill, or education, often a working stiff or lucky stiff.
    A Working Stiff's Manifesto: A Memoir of Thirty Jobs I Quit, Nine That Fired Me, and Three I Can't Remember was published in 2003.
  2. A person who is deceived, as a mark or pigeon in a swindle.
    She convinced the stiff to go to her hotel room, where her henchman was waiting to rob him.
  3. (slang) A cadaver, a dead person.
  4. (US) A person who leaves (especially a restaurant) without paying the bill.
  5. (blackjack) Any hard hand where it is possible to exceed 21 by drawing an additional card.


See also[edit]

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stiff (third-person singular simple present stiffs, present participle stiffing, simple past and past participle stiffed)

  1. To fail to pay that which one owes (implicitly or explicitly) to another, especially by departing hastily.
    Realizing he had forgotten his wallet, he stiffed the taxi driver when the cab stopped for a red light.
    • 1946, William Foote Whyte, Industry and Society, page 129
      We asked one girl to explain how she felt when she was "stiffed." She said, You think of all the work you've done and how you've tried to please [them…].
  2. to cheat someone
    • 1992, Stephen Birmingham, Shades of Fortune, page 451
      You see, poor Nonie really was stiffed by Adolph in his will. He really stiffed her, Rose, and I really wanted to right that wrong.
  3. to tip ungenerously
    • 2007, Mary Higgins Clark, I Heard That Song Before, page 154
      Then he stiffed the waiter with a cheap tip.