\ ˈrīf How to pronounce rife (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Media speculation has been rife for several months that Conte will leave Chelsea at the end of the campaign. Tony Jimenez, chicagotribune.com, "Fabregas: Chelsea must dispel 'regret' ahead of FA Cup final," 18 May 2018 Many mass murderers and other criminals have left behind an online trail Beierle’s YouTube and SoundCloud history is rife with violent sexism. Anna North, Vox, "How mass shooters practice their hate online," 4 Nov. 2018 The nation’s offices, factory floors and break rooms, which have grown unusually rife with political discussion, have closely felt the impact of the Kavanaugh debate, according to interviews with dozens of working men and women. Julie Jargon, WSJ, "The Kavanaugh Effect: Political Debates Shake Up the Workplace," 7 Oct. 2018 The camps, which have been here for generations, are now rife with depression, substance abuse, and suicide - a taboo topic in Karen culture. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Burma's Karen refugees face dwindling aid, struggle with depression and suicides," 15 Aug. 2018 The Hellfire Club is rife with Beltway intrigue and backroom deals, but Tapper's leading lady is what kept us turning pages. Elisabeth Egan, Glamour, "CNN's Jake Tapper Wrote Your New Favorite Fictional Heroine," 23 May 2018 HandoutGetty Images The ceremony hasn't even started yet, and already the 2019 Oscars have been rife with drama. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Is There an Oscars "Popular Film" Category After All This Year?," 24 Feb. 2019 For a place that's rife with both views and flakes? Vogue, "5 Outdoor Winter Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Exercise," 25 Dec. 2018 That feature, which showed news articles that were popular among users, but was rife with such problems as fake news and accusations of bias. Barbara Ortutay, The Seattle Times, "With an eye on past problems, Facebook expands local feature," 28 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rife

Listen to Our Podcast about rife

Dictionary Entries near rife






rife with


Statistics for rife

Last Updated

2 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rife

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for rife



English Language Learners Definition of rife

: very common and often bad or unpleasant

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on rife

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rife

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rife

Spanish Central: Translation of rife

Nglish: Translation of rife for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rife for Arabic Speakers

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).


an act or instance of returning to life

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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