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).
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.
late 14c., "to suffocate" (with or as with damp, foul air in a mine), from damp (n.). Figurative meaning "to check or retard the force or action of (the spirits, etc.)" is attested by 1540s. Meaning "to moisten" is recorded from 1670s. Century Dictionary (1897) states that "Dampen is now more common in the literal sense, and is sometimes used in the derived senses." Related: Damped; damping.
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.
early 14c., drounen, "suffocate by immersion in water or other fluid," also intransitive, "be suffocated by immersion (etc.)," also figurative, "to overwhelm or overpower by rising above as a flood," perhaps from an unrecorded variant of Old English druncnian (Middle English druncnen) "be swallowed up by water" (originally of ships as well as living things); at any rate it is probably from the base of drincan "to drink" (see drink (v.) and compare drench).
Or perhaps it is from Old Norse drukna "be drowned," which has at least influenced the modern form of the word, via North of England dialect. Related: Drowned; drowning. To drown (someone or something) out formerly was "to force to come out by influx of water;" in reference to sounds, by 1884.