: prevalent especially to an increasing degree
suspicion and cruelty were rifeW. E. B. Du Bois
: copiously supplied : abounding
usually used with with
rife with rumors
rife adverb
rifely adverb

Did you know?

English is rife with words that have Germanic connections, many of which have been handed down to us from Old English. Rife is one of those words. Not a whole lot has changed with rife in its long history. We continue to use the word for negative things, especially those that are widespread or prevalent. Examples are "shoplifting was rife" or "the city was rife with greed and corruption." Rumors and speculation are also frequently described as "rife." But rife can also be appropriately used for good or neutral things. For example, you might speak of the summer garden being "rife" with scents.

Examples of rife in a Sentence

Speculation about who would be fired ran rife for weeks. a city government that is rife with malfeasance and corruption
Recent Examples on the Web This had already been rife after Kate took an extended step back from her royal duties following the unspecified surgery. Alexander Smith, NBC News, 11 Mar. 2024 After the aborted mutiny in late June, speculation has been rife about the future of the mercenary group that provided one of the most capable elements of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau The Associated Press, Arkansas Online, 30 Sep. 2023 Corruption in these countries is rife and offers both financial rewards and impunity for those leaders and armed groups who have captured government bureaucracies. Renad Mansour, Foreign Affairs, 26 Mar. 2024 Speculation has been rife that the group may have received assistance from abroad, which, if proven, could raise the specter of a wider regional war. Abbas Al Lawati, CNN, 9 Oct. 2023 Bad luck had forced him out of two previous races minutes before the start, and speculation was rife that he might be demoted after some disappointing performances. Hikari Hida, New York Times, 28 Sep. 2023 In countries like Libya with no singular nationwide administration, where corruption is rife and public infrastructure is often an afterthought, efforts from prediction to prevention are made less reliable, analysts said. Ziad Jaber, NBC News, 21 Sep. 2023 Most of us had already given up on these debts, especially given that corruption was rife inside this program. Elias Ferrer, Forbes, 2 Mar. 2024 There is no panic in Belgorod, but tension and paranoia are rife. Francesca Ebel, Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rife.' 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 ryfe, from Old English rȳfe; akin to Old Norse rīfr abundant

First Known Use

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rife was in the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near rife

Cite this Entry

“Rife.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rife. Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: widespread sense 1, prevalent
lands where famine is rife
: supplied in large amounts
the town was rife with rumors
rifely adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on rife

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!