mid·​riff | \ ˈmi-ˌdrif How to pronounce midriff (audio) \

Definition of midriff

1 : the mid-region of the human torso : midsection
2a : a section of a woman's garment that covers the midriff
b : a woman's garment that exposes the midriff

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Did You Know?

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 since the earliest known use of midriff in Bald's Leechbook, an Old English medical manuscript 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

Summer in New York City calls for mandatory midriff. refinery29.com, "Selena Gomez's Sun Hat Is The Perfect Summer Accessory," 25 July 2019 When a woman in a midriff-baring singlet top and cutoff shorts walked by, the men complained that any new rules should apply to everyone equally. Anna Fifield, Washington Post, "A mainstay of the Chinese summer, the ‘Beijing Bikini,’ is under threat," 20 June 2019 Schwarzenegger’s was long sleeve with cutouts on the side and was cropped to show off her midriff. Dave Quinn, PEOPLE.com, "Katherine Schwarzenegger Seen Out for the First Time Since Marrying Chris Pratt," 11 June 2019 Her high-neck, camel-colored top and black jogger pants loosely framed her skin-centric midriff, concealing the rest of her no-doubt toned physique in the process. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Emily Ratajkowski Makes the Case for a Summer Six Pack—in the Dead of Winter," 20 Dec. 2018 Just yesterday, en route to her rehearsal dinner in Paris with her fiancé actor Karl Glusman, Kravitz stepped out in a midriff-exposing hand crochet and pearl cocktail dress from the bridal label Danielle Frankel by Danielle Hirsch. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Zoë Kravitz Wears the Ultimate Cool Girl Bridal Label in Paris," 29 June 2019 There has never been a time in which so many designers are concentrating their efforts on the young and perfect, that midriff-baring, navel-proud, thighs-of-a-goddess tiny minority. Vogue, "Read the Funny, Fearless Judith Krantz on Dressing at 70 in Vogue," 24 June 2019 Opting for a seriously figure-hugging look as per usual, Kim Kardashian arrived at the party in bright red latex leggings that showed off her midriff and clung in all the right places. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kim Kardashian Does Superhero Chic in Red Latex at Travis Scott's 28th Birthday Party," 26 Apr. 2019 Beautiful skirt suit hybrids, geometric shoulders and peplums followed a silvery fishlike shawl top that was gathered at the midriff. Thomas Adamson, The Seattle Times, "Starry Saint Laurent show in Paris sees models walk on water," 25 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'midriff.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of midriff

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

History and Etymology for midriff

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.

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Statistics for midriff

Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for midriff

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

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More Definitions for midriff



English Language Learners Definition of midriff

: the area around a person's middle : the front of a person's body between the chest and the waist


mid·​riff | \ ˈmid-ˌrif How to pronounce midriff (audio) \

Kids Definition of midriff

: the middle part of the human body between the chest and the waist


mid·​riff | \ ˈmid-ˌrif How to pronounce midriff (audio) \

Medical Definition of midriff

2 : the mid-region of the human torso

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More from Merriam-Webster on midriff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with midriff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for midriff

Spanish Central: Translation of midriff

Nglish: Translation of midriff for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of midriff for Arabic Speakers

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