Etymology
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stifle (v.)

late 14c., "to choke, suffocate, drown," of uncertain origin, possibly an alteration of Old French estouffer "to stifle, smother" (Modern French étouffer), itself of uncertain etymology, perhaps from a Germanic source (compare Old High German stopfon "to plug up, stuff"). Metaphoric sense is from 1570s. Related: Stifled; stifling.

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suffocation (n.)

late 14c., suffocacioun, "obstruction of breathing, choking," from Old French suffocation, suffocacion and directly from Latin suffocationem (nominative suffocatio) "a choking, stifling," noun of action from past-participle stem of suffocare "suffocate, throttle, stifle, strangle," originally "to narrow up," from sub "up (from under)" (see sub-) + fauces (plural) "throat, narrow entrance" (see faucet).

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damp (n.)

early 14c., "noxious vapor in a coal mine, fire-damp, stifling poisonous gas," perhaps in Old English but there is no record of it. If not, probably from Middle Low German damp; ultimately in either case from Proto-Germanic *dampaz (source also of Old High German damph, German Dampf "vapor;" Old Norse dampi "dust"). Sense of "moist air, moisture, humidity" is not easily distinguished from the older sense but is certainly attested by 1706.

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fume (n.)

late 14c., "vapor, odorous vapor; exhalation," from Old French fum "smoke, steam, vapor, breath, aroma, scent" (12c.), from Latin fumus "smoke, steam, fume, old flavor" (source also of Italian fumo, Spanish humo), from PIE root *dheu- (1) "dust, vapor, smoke."

In old medicine, an "exhalation" of the body that produces emotions, dreams, sloth, etc; later especially of smokes or vapors that go to the head and affect the senses with a narcotic or stifling quality.

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smolder (v.)

c. 1300 (implied in smoldering), transitive, "smother, suffocate," related to Middle Dutch smolen, Low German smelen, Flemish smoel "hot," from Proto-Germanic *smel-, *smul-.

The intransitive meaning "burn and smoke without flame" is recorded by 1520s, fell from use 17c. (though smoldering persisted in poetry) and was revived 19c. The figurative sense of "exist in a suppressed state; burn inwardly" is from 1810. Related: Smouldered; smolderingly. Middle English also had a noun smolder meaning "smoky vapor, a stifling smoke."

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choke (v.)

c. 1300, transitive, "to stop the breath by preventing air from entering the windpipe;" late 14c., "to make to suffocate, deprive of the power of drawing breath," of persons as well as swallowed objects; a shortening of acheken (c. 1200), from Old English aceocian "to choke, suffocate," probably from root of ceoke "jaw, cheek" (see cheek (n.)), with intensive a-.

Intransitive sense from c. 1400. Meaning "gasp for breath" is from early 15c. Figurative use from c. 1400, in early use often with reference to weeds stifling the growth of useful plants (a Biblical image). Meaning "to fail in the clutch" is attested by 1976, American English. Related: Choked; choking.

The North American choke-cherry (1785) supposedly was so called for its astringent qualities: compare choke-apple "crab-apple" (1610s); and choke-pear (1530s) "kind of pear with an astringent taste" (also with a figurative sense, defined by Johnson as "Any aspersion or sarcasm, by which another person is put to silence)." Choked up "overcome with emotion and unable to speak" is attested by 1896. The baseball batting sense is by 1907.

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