Learn English – word for suffocation by chest compression



I'm looking for a word that means "to be unable to breathe due to constriction or compression of the chest (lungs/ribs)." Does such a word exist, and does anyone know how best to (succinctly) express this concept?

Note: I am looking for a word that is more specific than "suffocate" that specifically refers to the chest (lungs/rib cage) impact.


It's not quite as morbid of a question as it sounds. I was in the car with my son (in a car seat), and he was talking about how he didn't want his five-point harness (i.e. the "seat belt" part of a car seat) to be too tight or else he would "choke." He clearly meant that he wouldn't be able to breathe properly in that scenario, but I believed that choke wasn't the correct word. This led to an interesting conversation about what the correct word would in fact be. We settled on "suffocate." However, this, to my ear, sounds like it inherently has an implication of airway obstruction in the vicinity of the mouth/nose. And even if not, the word is certainly more generic than the word that I'm trying to identify.


For reference, here are the words that appear to be relevant. All of these definitions are from http://www.merriam-webster.com/.


  • to become unable to breathe usually because something gets stuck in your throat or because the air is not good for breathing

  • to cause (someone) to stop breathing by squeezing the throat

  • to make (someone) unable to breathe in a normal way [Note: this definition would presumably apply to my scenario, above, but it still doesn't "sound right" because of the prevalence of the first two definitions.]


  • to die because you are unable to breathe [Note: this is probably the closest match. It doesn't mention mouth/nose as a key part of the definition. Is that just my own connotation? Additionally, it appears to be quite a generic definition, and doesn't offer the specificity of the chest compression instance that I'm curious about.]

  • to kill (someone) by making breathing impossible

  • to be uncomfortable because there is not enough fresh air

drown (for the sake of comparison)

  • to die by being underwater too long and unable to breathe

  • to hold (a person or animal) underwater until death occurs

  • to cover (something) completely with a liquid

(Note: the full definition goes on to specify: to suffocate by submersion especially in water." So I interpret that as "drowning is a subset of the ways in which suffocation can occur." Thus, the word drown and the word I'm trying to find would be of equal specificity.)

Best Answer

One term appears to be Mechanical / traumatic asphyxia

Mechanical / traumatic asphyxia: external compression of chest, preventing normal respiration. Forensics Asphyxia Author: Lindsey Harle, M.D.
Pathology Outlines

I removed my reference to a Wikipedia article that used the term compressive asphyxia. It appears that the article may be corrupted. I'm no longer sure how widespread that particular term is.