riff

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See also: Riff and RIFF

English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English *rif (found only in midrif), from Old English hrif (the belly; womb), from Proto-Germanic *hrefaz (body; torso; belly), from Proto-Indo-European *krep- (body). Doublet of corpus.

Noun[edit]

riff (plural riffs)

  1. (anatomy, archaic) The belly; the bowels.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Uncertain. Perhaps a clipping of riffle, or an alteration of refrain.

Noun[edit]

riff (plural riffs)

  1. A repeated instrumental melody line in a song.
    • 2009 November 27, “Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child has 'best guitar riff'”, in BBC[1]:
      Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child has been named the greatest guitar riff of all time, 41 years after it was recorded, in a poll by website Music Radar.
    Listen to one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time!
  2. A clever or witty remark.
    • 2015 September 27, “Pope Francis delivers off-the-cuff riff on family life”, in USA Today[2]:
      Pope Francis delivers off-the-cuff riff on family life
  3. A variation on something.
    • 2012, The Economist, London Skyline: Tower Power
      Both the Orbit and the Pinnacle are riffs on an idea sketched out in 1917 by Vladimir Tatlin for a monument to international communism.
  4. A spoof.
    • 26 June 2014, A.A Dowd, AV Club Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler spoof rom-com clichés in They Came Together[3]
      The creative team has experience with spoofing: Both Rudd and Poehler had parts in Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer, a hysterically irreverent riff on ’80s summer-camp comedies.
Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

riff (third-person singular simple present riffs, present participle riffing, simple past and past participle riffed)

  1. To improvise in the performance or practice of an art, especially by expanding on or making novel use of traditional themes.
    • 2006, Janet Tashjian, Fault Line: A Novel, →ISBN:
      She riffed on the Olympic judges, the bobsled team, then ad-libbed with a woman drinking a martini at the front table.
    • 2011, Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City, →ISBN:
      They were great architects deeply enmeshed in an urban chain of innovation; Wright riffed on Sullivan's idea of form following function, and Sullivan riffed on Jenney, and Jenney relied on the fireproofing innovations of Peter B. Wight.
    • 2014, Johann P. Arnason, Religion and Politics: European and Global Perspectives, →ISBN, page 59:
      For Holyoake a strategic advantage of his newly coined label was the way it riffed on the term 'secular' in the Western Christian imaginary.
    • 2014, Edward Stewart, Privileged Lives, →ISBN:
      He riffed an upward arpeggio and in a smooth, slightly neutered baritone began singing “Baby Face.”
  2. To riffle.
    • 2010, Michael Flynn, In the Country of the Blind, →ISBN:
      He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wellworn deck of cards. He hated Saturday duty. He cut the deck and riffed the two halves together.
    • 2012, Jane Roberts, Triple Challenge: '69 to '70, →ISBN, page 173:
      He was gracious enough to thank her, and briefly riffed through the pages before putting it in his briefcase.
    • 2014, Miles Swarthout, The Last Shootist, →ISBN:
      The man reached inside a pocket of the black broadcloth coat he'd draped over the back of his chair and withdrew a deck of cards, which he fanned in one hand, then bent back and riffed rapidly into the palm of his other.

See also[edit]


French[edit]

Noun[edit]

riff m (plural riffs)

  1. (music) riff

Spanish[edit]

Noun[edit]

riff m (plural riffs)

  1. (music) riff