1

riff

noun \ ˈrif \
Updated on: 16 May 2018

Definition of riff

1 : an ostinato phrase (as in jazz) typically supporting a solo improvisation; also : a piece based on such a phrase
2 : a rapid energetic often improvised verbal outpouring; especially : one that is part of a comic performance
3 : a succinct usually witty comment
4 : a distinct variation : take
  • a disturbing … riff on the Cinderella story
  • —Daria Donnelly

Examples of riff in a Sentence

  1. He stole that riff from another song.

  2. a mock news program with humorous riffs on current events

Recent Examples of riff from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of riff

probably by shortening & alteration from refrain

2

riff

verb

Definition of riff

: to perform, deliver, or make use of a riff

Recent Examples of riff from the Web

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

First Known Use of riff

1948

in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

3

riff

verb

Definition of riff

: riffle, skim
  • riff pages

Origin and Etymology of riff

short for riffle

RIFF Defined for English Language Learners

riff

Definition of riff for English Language Learners

  • music : a short and usually repeated pattern of notes in a song

  • : a short set of comments on a particular subject


Learn More about riff


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

of the same or a similar kind or nature

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • spring-flowers
  • Which is a synonym of raillery?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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