Old English stif "rigid, inflexible," from Proto-Germanic *stifaz "inflexible" (source also of Dutch stijf, Old High German stif, German steif "stiff;" Old Norse stifla "choke"), from PIE *stipos-, from root *steip- "press together, pack, cram" (source also of Sanskrit styayate "coagulates," stima "slow;" Greek stia, stion "small stone," steibo "press together;" Latin stipare "pack down, press," stipes "post, tree trunk;" Lithuanian stipti "to stiffen, grow rigid," stiprus "strong;" Old Church Slavonic stena "wall"). Of battles and competitions, from mid-13c.; of liquor, from 1813. To keep a stiff upper lip is attested from 1815. Related: Stiffly.
word-forming element denoting action, quality, or state, attached to an adjective or past participle to form an abstract noun, from Old English -nes(s), from Proto-Germanic *in-assu- (cognates: Old Saxon -nissi, Middle Dutch -nisse, Dutch -nis, Old High German -nissa, German -nis, Gothic -inassus), from *-in-, originally belonging to the noun stem, + *-assu-, abstract noun suffix, probably from the same root as Latin -tudo (see -tude).
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Definitions of stiffness
the physical property of being inflexible and hard to bend;
the property of moving with pain or difficulty;
he awoke with a painful stiffness in his neck
firm resoluteness in purpose or opinion or action;
a charming host without any touch of stiffness or pomposity
the inelegance of someone stiff and unrelaxed (as by embarrassment);