AskDefine | Define smother

Dictionary Definition



1 a confused multitude of things [syn: clutter, jumble, muddle, mare's nest, welter]
2 a stifling cloud of smoke


1 envelop completely; "smother the meat in gravy" [syn: surround]
2 deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing; "Othello smothered Desdemona with a pillow"; "The child suffocated herself with a plastic bag that the parents had left on the floor" [syn: asphyxiate, suffocate]
3 conceal or hide; "smother a yawn"; "muffle one's anger"; "strangle a yawn" [syn: stifle, strangle, muffle, repress]
4 form an impenetrable cover over; "the butter cream smothered the cake"
5 deprive of the oxygen necessary for combustion; "smother fires" [syn: put out]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To suffocate; stifle; obstruct, more or less completely, the respiration of.
  2. To extinguish or deaden, as fire, by covering, overlaying, or otherwise excluding the air: as, to smother a fire with ashes.
  3. To reduce to a low degree of vigor or activity; suppress or do away with; extinguish; stifle; cover up; conceal; hide: as, the committee's report was smothered.
  4. In cookery: to cook in a close dish: as, beefsteak smothered with onions.
  5. To daub or smear.
  6. To be suffocated.
  7. To breathe with great difficulty by reason of smoke, dust, close covering or wrapping, or the like.
  8. Of a fire: to burn very slowly for want of air; smolder.
  9. Figuratively: to perish, grow feeble, or decline, by suppression or concealment; be stifled; be suppressed or concealed.
  10. 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.


To suffocate
To extinguish or deaden
To reduce to a low degree of vigor or activity
  • Finnish: tukahduttaa
  • Greek: πνίγω, καταπνίγω
In cookery: to cook in a close dish
To daub or smear
To be suffocated
To breathe with great difficulty
  • Finnish: tukehtua
  • Greek: πνίγομαι
to burn very slowly for want of air
Figuratively: to perish, grow feeble, or decline


  1. That which smothers or appears to smother, in any sense.
  2. The state of being stifled; suppression.
  3. The act of smothering a kick (see above).


Extensive Definition

Asphyxia (from Greek a-, "without" and σφυγμός (sphygmos), "pulse, heartbeat") is a condition of severely deficient supply of oxygen to the body that arises from being unable to breathe normally. An example of Asphyxia is choking. Asphyxia causes generalized hypoxia, which primarily affects the tissues and organs most sensitive to hypoxia first, such as the brain, hence resulting in cerebral hypoxia. Asphyxia is usually characterized by air hunger, but this is not always the case; the urge to breathe is triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels in the blood rather than diminishing oxygen levels. Sometimes there is not enough carbon dioxide to cause air hunger, and victims become hypoxic without knowing it. This may occur, for example, if the oxygen in the air of an enclosed space is displaced by a large amount of inert gas. In any case, the absence of effective remedial action will very rapidly lead to unconsciousness, brain damage, and death. The time to death is dependent on the particular mechanism of asphyxia.
Asphyxia is used to maim or kill in capital punishment, suicide, torture, and warfare. It is also used non-fatally in martial arts, combat sports, BDSM, and during sex as erotic asphyxia. Because the need to breathe is triggered by the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, some victims may not experience an urgent need to breathe and may remain unaware of the onset of hypoxia.

Chemical or physiological interference with respiration

Various chemical and physiological situations can interfere with the body's ability to absorb and use oxygen or regulate blood oxygen levels:


Smothering refers to the mechanical obstruction of the flow of air from the environment into the mouth and/or nostrils, for instance, by covering the mouth and nose with a hand, pillow, or a plastic bag. Smothering can be either partial or complete, where partial indicates that the person being smothered is able to inhale some air, although less than required. In a normal situation, smothering requires at least partial obstruction of both the nasal cavities and the mouth to lead to asphyxia. Smothering with the hands or chest is used in some combat sports to distract the opponent, and create openings for transitions, as the opponent is forced to react to the smothering. It is also used in BDSM as a type of facesitting.
In some cases, smothering is combined with simultaneous compressive asphyxia. One example is overlay, in which an adult accidentally rolls over an infant during co-sleeping, an accident that often goes unnoticed and is mistakenly thought to be sudden infant death syndrome. Other accidents involving a similar mechanism are cave-ins or when an individual is buried in sand or grain. In homicidal cases, the term burking is often ascribed to a killing method that involves simultaneous smothering and compression of the torso.

Compressive asphyxia

Compressive asphyxia (also called chest compression) refers to the mechanical limitation of the expansion of the lungs by compressing the torso, hence interfering with breathing. Compressive asphyxia occurs when the chest or abdomen is compressed posteriorly. In accidents, the term traumatic asphyxia or crush asphyxia is usually used to describe compressive asphyxia resulting from being crushed or pinned under a large weight or force. An example of traumatic asphyxia includes cases in which an individual has been using a car-jack to repair a car from below, only to be crushed under the weight of the vehicle
It may be a cause of death in detainee who have been restrained and left prone e.g. in police vehicles and are unable to move into safer positions, when it has been styled 'restraint asphyxia'.
Chest compression is also featured in various grappling combat sports, where it is sometimes called wringing. Such techniques are used either to tire the opponent or as complementary or distractive moves in combination with pinning holds, or sometimes even as submission holds. Examples of chest compression include the knee-on-stomach position, or techniques such as leg scissors (also referred to as body scissors and in budo referred to as do-jime, 胴絞, "trunk strangle" or "body triangle") where you wrap the legs around the opponent's midsection and squeeze them together.
Pressing is a form of torture or execution that works through asphyxia.

Perinatal asphyxia

Perinatal asphyxia is the medical condition resulting from deprivation of oxygen (hypoxia) to a newborn infant long enough to cause apparent harm. It results most commonly from a drop in maternal blood pressure or interference during delivery with blood flow to the infant's brain. This can occur due to inadequate circulation or perfusion, impaired respiratory effort, or inadequate ventilation. Perinatal asphyxia happens in 2 to 10 per 1000 newborns that are born a terme.


Further reading

smother in Danish: Kvælning
smother in German: Asphyxie
smother in Estonian: Lämbumine
smother in Spanish: Anoxia
smother in French: Asphyxie
smother in Korean: 질식
smother in Italian: Anossia
smother in Lithuanian: Uždusimas
smother in Dutch: Wurging
smother in Japanese: 窒息
smother in Polish: Asfiksja
smother in Portuguese: Asfixia
smother in Russian: Асфиксия
smother in Simple English: Suffocation
smother in Finnish: Asfyksia
smother in Swedish: Kvävning
smother in Ukrainian: Асфіксія
smother in Chinese: 窒息

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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