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See also: Rife and rifé



From Middle English rife, from Old English rīfe, rȳfe (rife, abundant, frequent), from Proto-Germanic *rībaz (generous), from Proto-Indo-European *reyp- (to tear (off), rip). Cognate with West Frisian rju (rife, much), Low German rive (abundant, munificent), Dutch rijf (abundant, copious), Icelandic rífr (rife, munificent), Icelandic reifa (to bestow).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɹaɪf/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪf


rife (comparative rifer, superlative rifest)

  1. Widespread, common, prevalent, current (mainly of unpleasant or harmful things).
    Smallpox was rife after the siege had been lifted.
    • 1712, John Arbuthnot, An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies
      Before the plague of London, inflammations of the lungs were rife and mortal.
    • 1634 October 9 (first performance), [John Milton], H[enry] Lawes, editor, A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634: [] [Comus], London: [] [Augustine Matthews] for Hvmphrey Robinson, [], published 1637, OCLC 228715864; reprinted as Comus: [] (Dodd, Mead & Company’s Facsimile Reprints of Rare Books; Literature Series; no. I), New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903, OCLC 1113942837:
      The tumult of loud mirth was rife.
    • 1828, James Hogg, Mary Burnet
      She was afterwards Lady Keith; and the mention of this name in the tale, as it were by mere accident, fixes the era of it in the reign of James the Fourth, at the very time that fairies, brownies, and witches, were at the rifest in Scotland.
    • 1900, Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Avon Books, (translated by James Strachey) pg. 170:
      The 'denominational considerations' mentioned below relate, of course, to anti-Semitic feeling, which was already rife in Vienna during the last years of the nineteenth century.
    • 1964 May, R. K. Evans, “The Ventura—Paxman's high-speed engine”, in Modern Railways, page 329:
      BRB engineers, it is known, have a warm regard for the Ventura range and speculation is rife that it may feature more widely in future BR dieselisation programmes.
  2. Abounding; present in large numbers, plentiful.
    These woodlands are rife with red deer.
    Watermelons are rife with seeds.
  3. Full of (mostly unpleasant or harmful things).
    Many post-colonial governments were rife with lawlessness and corruption.
    • 2013, Daniel Taylor, Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic climbs highest to sink Benfica (in The Guardian, 15 May 2013)[1]
      They will have to reflect on a seventh successive defeat in a European final while Chelsea try to make sense of an eccentric season rife with controversy and bad feeling but once again one finishing on an exhilarating high.
  4. (obsolete) Having power; active; nimble.


Derived terms[edit]



rife (comparative more rife, superlative most rife)

  1. Plentifully, abundantly.
    The snowdrops grow rife on the slopes of Mount Pembroke.






  1. inflection of rifar:
    1. first-person singular present subjunctive
    2. third-person singular present subjunctive
    3. third-person singular imperative