See also: Stiff

English

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Etymology

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From Middle English stiff, stiffe, stif, from Old English stīf, from Proto-West Germanic *stīf, from Proto-Germanic *stīfaz, from Proto-Indo-European *steypós.

See also West Frisian stiif, Dutch stijf, Norwegian Bokmål stiv, German steif; also Latin stīpes, stīpō, from which English stevedore.

The expected Modern English form would be /staɪf/; /stɪf/ is probably originally from compounds such as stiffly, where the vowel was shortened before a consonant cluster.[1]

Pronunciation

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  • IPA(key): /stɪf/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪf

Adjective

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stiff (comparative stiffer, superlative stiffest)

  1. (of an object) Rigid; hard to bend; inflexible.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter IX, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC:
      “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.
    • 2008, BioWare, Mass Effect (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →ISBN, →OCLC, PC, scene: Xawin:
      You have discovered the corpse of Captain Willem of the MSV Majesty. His stiff fingers are wrapped tightly around a small datapad.
  2. (figurative, 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.
    • 1961 February, “New English Electric diesels for East Africa”, in Trains Illustrated, page 90:
      To fit them for heavy loads on gradients as stiff as 1 in 45 in tropical conditions, these Class 90 diesels embody several unusual features, [...].
  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
    • 2023 July 4, Marina Hyde, “Who’s for political Bazball with Rishi? Voters? Tories? Anyone?”, in The Guardian[2]:
      In the end, perhaps these deflections are easier than confronting the reality and debunking some of the less helpful stories a certain section of England likes to tell about itself. Much easier to just order another stiff one, and raise the old toast: “My country, right or wrong!”
  7. (informal) Dead, deceased.
  8. (of the penis) Erect.
    • 1592/3, Thomas Nashe, The Choise of Valentines[3] (Poetry), published 1899, →OCLC, archived from the original on February 27, 2006[4]:
      Adieu! faint-hearted instrument of lust; / That falselie hath betrayde our equale trust. / Hence-forth no more will I implore thine ayde, / Or thee, or man of cowardize upbrayde. / My little dilldo shall suply their kinde: / A knaue, that moues as light as leaues by winde; / That bendeth not, nor fouldeth anie deale, / But stands as stiff as he were made of steele; / And playes at peacock twixt my leggs right blythe, / And doeth my tickling swage with manie a sighe. / For, by saint Runnion! he'le refresh me well; / And neuer make my tender bellie swell.
  9. Having a dense consistency; thick; (by extension) Difficult to stir.
    Adding too much peanut butter to your Peanut Sauce recipe may cause your sauce to turn out too stiff.
  10. (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
  11. (mathematics) Of an equation, for which certain numerical solving methods are numerically unstable, unless the step size is taken to be extremely small.
  12. (nautical) Keeping upright.
  13. (golf) Of a shot, landing so close to the flagstick that it should be very easy to sink the ball with the next shot.
    • 1968, William Price Fox, Southern Fried Plus Six: Short Works of Fiction, page 219:
      I go all out, go for the long ball, the stiff shots to the pin, aim for the back of the cup.
  14. (professional wrestling, of a strike) Delivered more forcefully than needed, whether intentionally or accidentally, thus causing legitimate pain to the opponent.

Quotations

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Derived terms

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Translations

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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Noun

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stiff (countable and uncountable, plural stiffs)

  1. (slang, chiefly Canada, US) An average person, usually male, of no particular distinction, skill, or education.
    • 1943, Ayn Rand, chapter IX, in The Fountainhead:
      The clerk shrugged: “That's the boss's little girl.” “Why, the lucky stiff!” said Keating. “He's been holding out on me.” “You misunderstood me,” the clerk said coldly. “It's his daughter. It's Dominique Francon.”
  2. (slang) 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.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:corpse, Thesaurus:body
  4. (slang) A flop; a commercial failure.
    • 1994, Andy Dougan, The actors' director: Richard Attenborough behind the camera, page 63:
      If the movie was a stiff it wasn't any of their specific faults. They were all in it together and they were jobbed in and jobbed out for two weeks and gone and they got a pile of money for their efforts.
    • 2016, Ralph J. Gleason, Toby Gleason, Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason:
      They never did sell any records. I don't mean they didn't sell 100,000. I mean they didn't sell 5000. Total. National. Coast-to-coast. The record was a stiff.
  5. (US, slang) A person who leaves (especially a restaurant) without paying the bill.
  6. (US, slang, by extension) A customer who does not leave a tip.
  7. (blackjack) Any hard hand where it is possible to exceed 21 by drawing an additional card.
  8. (finance, slang) Negotiable instruments, possibly forged.
  9. (prison slang) A note or letter surreptitiously sent by an inmate.

Derived terms

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Translations

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See also

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References

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  • (prison slang: a note or letter): Eric Partridge (1949) “stiff”, in A Dictionary of the Underworld, London: Macmillan Co., page 688; 2015, Noel 'Razor' Smith, The Criminal Alphabet: An A-Z of Prison Slang
  • (financial instruments): 1873, John Camden Hotten, The Slang Dictionary

Verb

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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.
  4. (slang) To kill.
    • 1978, Lou Reed (lyrics and music), “Street Hassle”, in Street Hassle:
      But you know it could be a hassle / Trying to explain myself to a police officer / About how it was your old lady got herself stiffed
  5. (informal) To be unsuccessful.
    • 1990, Wayne Jancik, The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders, →ISBN, page 18:
      "Come To Me" moved but a few to buy a copy; "My Queen" stiffed in the stall.

Derived terms

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Translations

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Adverb

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stiff (comparative more stiff, superlative most stiff)

  1. (nautical) Of the wind, with great force; strongly.
    • 1731, John Lowthorp, Philosophical Transactions and Collections to the End of the Year MDCC, 4th edition, volume II, page 282:
      At Feversham was a very High Tide in the Afternoon, tho' the Wind was Southerly, and blew very stiff, which the Seamen there wondered at.
    • 1849 October 23, Herman Melville, edited by Howard C. Horsforth and Lynn Horth, The Writings of Herman Melville: Journals, volume 15, published 1989, page 9:
      It soon blew stiff, & we scudded before it under double-reefed topsails, & mainsail hauled up.
    • 1871 September 16, W.A. Crowther, Diary:
      At about 11.30 am it rained tremendously and blew very stiff.

References

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  1. ^ Jespersen, Otto (1909) A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (Sammlung germanischer Elementar- und Handbücher; 9)‎[1], volumes I: Sounds and Spellings, London: George Allen & Unwin, published 1961, § 4.35, page 124.

Further reading

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Anagrams

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Middle English

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Adjective

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stiff

  1. Alternative form of stif

Adverb

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stiff

  1. Alternative form of stif

Yola

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Etymology

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From Middle English stif, from Old English stīf, from Proto-West Germanic *stīf.

Pronunciation

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Adjective

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stiff

  1. stiff
    • 1867, “DR. RUSSELL ON THE INHABITANTS AND DIALECT OF THE BARONY OF FORTH”, in APPENDIX:
      Stiff Staffort,
      Stiff Stafford.

References

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  • Jacob Poole (d. 1827) (before 1828) William Barnes, editor, A Glossary, With some Pieces of Verse, of the old Dialect of the English Colony in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy, County of Wexford, Ireland, London: J. Russell Smith, published 1867, page 126