A short piece I'm trying my hand at.

"Don't you attempt to strangle me!" he screamed as her hands closed around his throat "I'll sue you for grievous bodily harm". The scream had its effect — the hands around his throat wavered, then withdrew. One hand went to cover her own mouth as she burst into laughter —the peals ringing throughout the caravan for the first time in weeks, dissipating the built-up tension — the other hand holding onto a nearby rack, keeping her upright. Amid tears of mirth streaming down her eyes, as she almost bent double from laughing, came her gasping rejoinder: "How do you propose to sue me after you've been strangled?"

Here's my confusion -

Do I use strangle/strangled, or strangulate/strangulated? How are the two different?

  • 1
    Strangulate is nothing but a longer version of strangle; it has the same meaning and etymology. If ease of comprehension is your goal, use the shorter, more familiar word.
    – Anonym
    Mar 10, 2015 at 5:13
  • 1
    Why the downvotes? It's not a proofreading question, the OP is asking about word choice.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 10, 2015 at 10:45

3 Answers 3


Strangulate is more often (but not exclusively) [citation needed] used in a medical context that strangle lacks:

Strangulate (v). To restrict flow through a vessel, e.g. with a tourniquet.

Independently, the term strangle is about 50-100 times more common.

I would use strangle.

  • 1
    The second definition for "strangulate" is: strangle; throttle. sounding as though the speaker's throat is constricted.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 10, 2015 at 10:58
  • @Mari-LouA you are correct, the second definition for "strangulate" is indeed to strangle. However, this is the first definition for "strangle," which doesn't have the medical term (all of its definitions are roughly the same and roughly applicable here) which is independently the more frequently used term (by a factor of 50-100x).
    – Adam Katz
    Mar 10, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1
    I've added the extra content of my comment to the answer.
    – Adam Katz
    Mar 10, 2015 at 15:52

To strangle is to choke, "especially so as to cause death". So, either way, "strangling" or "strangulation", it's presumed lethal, just as "drowning" is. You can't be half-drowned; you either are or you aren't (well, you could be "nearly drowned".)

So anyway, if you don't die, you have only been "choked", not "strangled". That's why he said "Don't you attempt to strangle me!" Because, as she noted, if such an attempt were successful, he wouldn't be around to "sue" her. But the state could charge her with manslaughter or murder "by strangulation".

  • What about "strangulate"? It's not clear whether it's a good/poor choice.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 10, 2015 at 10:51

Strangulate is generally used in a medical sense except by people that refuse to look up words. Those same people will say "conversate" instead of "converse"

  • 2
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