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[fahyf] /faɪf/
a high-pitched transverse flute used commonly in military and marching musical groups.
verb (used with or without object), fifed, fifing.
to play on a fife.
Origin of fife
1540-50; < German Pfeife pipe1
Related forms
fifer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fifer
Historical Examples
  • It is my honourable friend (if he will allow me to call him so) the fifer.

    The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens
  • The fifer to the Lexington minute-men was sixteen years old.

  • The fifer, in revenge, declared he was only humbugging the Squire.

    Handy Andy, Volume One Samuel Lover
  • Questioned, what was the personal appearance and age of the said fifer.

    Records of The Spanish Inquisition Andrew Dickson White
  • Well, well, bring the drum, and order our fifer to come here.

    Good Stories For Great Holidays Frances Jenkins Olcott
  • Next the Admiral made our fifer to play a merry and peaceful air.

    1492 Mary Johnston
  • The said fifer spoke against the christian religion and Spain, and Estruch opposed him.

    Records of The Spanish Inquisition Andrew Dickson White
  • Faith, Miley, thou wouldst make a good little drummer or fifer!

    The Virginians William Makepeace Thackeray
  • And Im goin to hire a fifer and drummer to come and play in front of our house every mornin.

    Drum Taps in Dixie Delavan S. Miller
  • The fifer, the drummer, and the little boy should be good musicians playing patriotic music of the Revolution.

    America First

British Dictionary definitions for fifer


a small high-pitched flute similar to the piccolo and usually having no keys, used esp in military bands
to play (music) on a fife
Derived Forms
fifer, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old High German pfīfa; see pipe1


a council area and historical county of E central Scotland, bordering on the North Sea between the Firths of Tay and Forth: coastal lowlands in the north and east, with several ranges of hills; mainly agricultural. Administrative centre: Glenrothes. Pop: 352 040 (2003 est). Area: 1323 sq km (511 sq miles)


Duncan See Duncan Phyfe
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fifer



1550s, from German Pfeife "fife, pipe," from Old High German pfifa, or via Middle French fifre (15c.) from the same Old High German word; ultimately imitative. German musicians provided music for most European courts in those days. As a verb from 1590s. Agent noun fifer is recorded earlier (1530s). Fife and drum is from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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fifer in Culture

fife definition

A small flute with a high, piercing tone, used mainly in military bands.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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