Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Difficult to bend or fold.
  • adjective Not moving or operating easily or freely; resistant.
  • adjective Lacking ease or comfort of movement; not limber.
  • adjective Not liquid, loose, or fluid; thick.
  • adjective Reserved in manner or strict in observing decorum.
  • adjective Lacking grace or easy charm; very formal.
  • adjective Firm, as in purpose; resolute.
  • adjective Having a strong, swift, steady force or movement.
  • adjective Potent or strong.
  • adjective Difficult to deal with, do, or meet.
  • adjective Harsh or severe.
  • adjective Excessively high or onerous.
  • adjective Nautical Not heeling over much in spite of great wind or the press of the sail.
  • adverb In a stiff manner.
  • adverb To a complete extent; totally.
  • noun A corpse.
  • noun A person regarded as constrained, priggish, or overly formal.
  • noun A drunk.
  • noun A person.
  • noun A hobo; a tramp.
  • noun A person who tips poorly.
  • transitive verb To tip (someone) inadequately or not at all, as for a service rendered.
  • transitive verb To cheat (someone) of something owed.
  • transitive verb To fail to give or supply (something expected or promised).

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Rigid; not easily bent; not flexible or pliant; not flaccid: as, stiff paper; a cravat stiff with starch.
  • Not fluid: thick and tenacious; neither soft nor hard: as, a stiff batter; stiff clay.
  • Drawn tight; tense: as, a stiff cord.
  • Not easily bent: not to be moved without great friction or exertion; not working smoothly or easily.
  • Not natural and easy in movement; not flowing or graceful; cramped; constrained: as, a stiff style of writing or speaking.
  • Rigidly ceremonious; formal in manner; constrained; affected; unbending; starched: as, a stiff deportment.
  • Strong and steady in motion: as, a stiff breeze.
  • Strong; lusty; stanch, both physically and mentally.
  • Strong: said of an alcoholic drink, or mixed drink of which spirit forms a part.
  • Firm in resistance or persistence; obstinate; stubborn; pertinacious.
  • Hard to receive or accept; hard to bear.
  • Hard to master or overcome; very difficult: as, a stiff examination in mathematics.
  • Nautical, bearing a press of canvas or of wind without careening much; tending to keep upright: as, a stiff vessel; a stiff keel: opposed to crank.
  • High; steep: as, a stiff price.
  • Unyielding; firm: said of prices, markets, etc.: as, the wheat-market is stiff.
  • Rigid as in death; dead.
  • Synonyms Unbending, unyielding.
  • Prim, punctilious.
  • Inflexible, uncompromising.
  • noun A dead body; a corpse.
  • noun In hatting, a stiffener.
  • noun Negotiable paper.

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English stīf.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English stīf, from Proto-Germanic *stifaz, from Proto-Indo-European *stīpos (compare Latin stipare, from which English stevedore).

Examples

  • The walls were full of photos in cheap plastic frames: A young boy held a net of frogs, his expression stiff and sorrowful; the same boy stood at the edge of a cliff at sunset with his arms spread open toward the camera.

    The Gin Closet

  • A flexible bit is one in which the axles have their points of junction broad and smooth,141 so as to bend easily; and where the several parts fitting round the axles, being large of aperture and not too closely packed, have greater flexibility; whereas, if the several parts do not slide to and fro with ease, and play into each other, that is what we call a stiff bit.

    On Horsemanship

  • Ken, I want to begin with you because you have said time and time again right here on this show that Lindsay needs what you call stiff punishment to really teach her a lesson.

    CNN Transcript Nov 13, 2007

  • A flexible bit is one in which the axles have their points of junction broad and smooth, (8) so as to bend easily; and where the several parts fitting round the axles, being large of aperture and not too closely packed, have greater flexibility; whereas, if the several parts do not slide to and fro with ease, and play into each other, that is what we call a stiff bit.

    On Horsemanship

  • Judge Spear imposed what he called a stiff sentence, in part to reflect the damage that Mr Ross's conduct has caused to public confidence in similar events, but also to act as a deterrent to others.

    NZ On Screen

  • And yet he knew, furthermore, that hers was a certain stiff-kneed pride that would not have permitted her to accept marriage as an act of philanthropy.

    Chapter XII

  • An alki-stiff is a tramp who drinks druggist's alcohol.

    Chapter 13

  • He glanced about him at the well-bred, well-dressed men and women, and breathed into his lungs the atmosphere of culture and refinement, and at the same moment the ghost of his early youth, in stiff-rim and square-cut, with swagger and toughness, stalked across the room.

    Chapter 27

  • Someone I know said we should always set our goals in stiff jelly.

    Okay, I kind of don’t quit in a way after all, while still essentially remaining quitted on the thing I quit last time | Johnny B. Truant

  • Since the press law reform of 2002, Moroccan media have seen an increase in stiff criminal penalties and civil damages against journalists and the publications they write for.

    Global Voices in English » Morocco: Changing Nothing and Everything

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