Definition of rife
- suspicion and cruelty were rife
- —W. E. B. DuBois
- rife with rumors
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Speculation about who would be fired ran rife for weeks.
a city government that is rife with malfeasance and corruption
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.
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."
First Known Use: 12th centurySee Words from the same year
: very common and often bad or unpleasant
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