\ ˈrīf \

Definition of rife 

1 : prevalent especially to an increasing degree suspicion and cruelty were rife —W. E. B. DuBois

3 : copiously supplied : abounding usually used with with rife with rumors

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Other words from rife

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 900-year history. We continue to use the word, as we have since the 12th century, for negative things, especially those that are widespread or prevalent. Typical examples are "shoplifting was rife" or "the city was rife with greed and corruption." Rumors and speculation are also frequently described as "rife," as well. But rife can also be appropriately used, as it has been for hundreds of years, for good or neutral things. For example, you might speak of "the summer garden, 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

But Okeechobee is rife with chemicals and nutrients from agricultural and development runoff—and the combination of nutrient-rich waters and warm temperatures create ideal conditions for algal blooms. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "A Toxic Algal Bloom Is Spreading in Florida’s Waterways," 10 July 2018 The passage is rife with every sort of caution sign. Vahe Gregorian And Maria Torres, kansascity, "Yordano Ventura’s final year filled with family turmoil, emotional distress," 6 July 2018 With new manager Julen Lopetegui taking the reins from Zinedine Zidane, speculation is rife. SI.com, "Toni Kroos Ends Manchester United Transfer Speculation by Reiterating Contract Promise," 2 July 2018 But imposing tariffs on existing supply chains is rife with unintended consequences. Greg Ip, WSJ, "That Noise You Hear Is the Sound of Globalization Going Into Reverse," 27 June 2018 But allegations like hers are rife among families of vulnerable adults whose lives unfold behind closed doors. Ronnie Polaneczky, Philly.com, "How many bruises must this young man sustain before we help? | Ronnie Polaneczky," 14 June 2018 Even if your heart is not lost in translation, certain hearts are rife for misinterpretation. Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic, "The One Emoji That Means True Love," 16 May 2018 Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, rife poverty, weak public institutions and bad services despite high oil revenues for many years. NBC News, "Muqtada al-Sadr's coalition takes early lead in Iraqi elections," 14 May 2018 Yet coming in the season that is also rife with retirement speculation, the late-spring pattern offers a reminder of the justices' sometimes precarious health. Joan Biskupic, CNN, "As Supreme Court term nears end, a time for justices to watch their footing," 12 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rife.' 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 rife

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rife

Middle English ryfe, from Old English rȳfe; akin to Old Norse rīfr abundant

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Statistics for rife

Last Updated

20 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for rife

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

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English Language Learners Definition of rife

: very common and often bad or unpleasant

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Comments on rife

What made you want to look up rife? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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