mid·​riff ˈmi-ˌdrif How to pronounce midriff (audio)
plural midriffs
: the mid-region of the human torso : midsection
: a section of a garment that covers the midriff
: a garment that exposes the midriff

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Midriff is now most commonly encountered in the mid-torso or clothing-related senses. These senses are relatively young, having appeared, respectively, in the early 19th and mid-20th centuries. For most of its history, however, midriff has been used to refer to the diaphragm (a large flat muscle separating the lungs from the stomach area). The diaphragm sense has been with us for more than 1,000 years, with the earliest known uses being found in Old English manuscripts such as Bald's Leechbook, a medical text that is believed to date back to the 9th century. The riff in midriff comes from Old English hrif ("belly, womb"). Hrif is akin to Old High German href ("womb") and probably also to Latin corpus ("body").

Examples of midriff in a Sentence

She wore a skimpy outfit that showed her bare midriff. midriff-baring tops are popular this summer
Recent Examples on the Web Del Rey dazzled the crowd with a performance wearing a glittery periwinkle blue dress from Dolce & Gabbana with a midriff cutout and pleated detailing in the skirt. Ilana Kaplan, Peoplemag, 18 Apr. 2024 Another pair of white birds covers her chest, but nothing else — well, besides a metal cross and chain — obscures the rest of her body, leaving the tattoos on her arms, thighs and midriff exposed. Hannah Dailey, Billboard, 5 Apr. 2024 While this top is slightly cropped, my midriff never gets cold because there’s a shock cord at the waist that keeps drafts out. Katie Jackson, Travel + Leisure, 10 Mar. 2024 From straight-leg styles that expose just a hint of midriff to bootcut denim straight out of your Y2K fantasies, these are the best low-rise jeans to wear right now. Jake Smith, Glamour, 22 Feb. 2024 Moving things in another direction were designers who elongated the silhouette, by raising (Jonathan Anderson at Loewe), or dropping the waistline (Burberry), or filling in the midriff gap (Duran Lantink). Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 10 Oct. 2023 Now, Teo wears Calvin Kleins the same way — and enjoys being able to wear low-riding pants with the convenient extra midriff coverage that boxer shorts provide. Ashley Fetters Maloy, Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2023 As the millennium neared, and through the early 2000s, volume diminished along the leg in stages: Rises dropped, exposing hip bones and midriffs, and silhouettes slimmed at the thigh. Jonah Weiner, New York Times, 3 Mar. 2024 The Bottega Veneta Fall-Winter 2023 runway look was customized for the starlet with a chic midriff slash — continuing Zendaya’s growing trend of ab-framing outfits — and a full-length hemline. Leah Dolan, CNN, 9 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'midriff.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English mydref, mydrif "diaphragm, omentum," going back to Old English midhrif, from mid- mid entry 1 + hrif "belly, womb," going back to Germanic *hrifiz- (whence also Old Frisian midrif "diaphragm," Old Saxon inhrif "innards," Old High German href, ref "womb"), going back to *krep-es-, *krep-os-, full-grade derivative of Indo-European *kr̥p- "body, form," whence also Latin corpor-, corpus "body" (from *kr̥p-os-), Middle Irish crí, Sanskrit kr̥p- "shape, appearance," Avestan kəhrp

Note: The base may be *ḱr̥p- with a palatovelar if it is assumed that Indo-Iranian palatovelars lost their palatal quality before r. Earlier reconstructed with initial *kw- on the basis of Greek prapídes "midriff," but it has been claimed that Greek regularly dissimilated *kw-p- to *k-p-; also a labiovelar would probably not result in a front vowel in Irish crí.

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of midriff was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near midriff

Cite this Entry

“Midriff.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/midriff. Accessed 18 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


mid·​riff ˈmid-ˌrif How to pronounce midriff (audio)
: the middle region of the human body

Medical Definition


mid·​riff ˈmid-ˌrif How to pronounce midriff (audio)
: the mid-region of the human torso

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