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[rahyf] /raɪf/
of common or frequent occurrence; prevalent; in widespread existence, activity, or use:
Crime is rife in the slum areas of our cities.
current in speech or report:
Rumors are rife that the government is in financial difficulty.
abundant, plentiful, or numerous.
abounding (usually followed by with).
Origin of rife
before 1150; Middle English; Old English rīfe; cognate with Middle Dutch rijf abundant, Old Norse rīfr
Related forms
rifely, adverb
rifeness, noun
overrife, adjective
unrife, adjective
Can be confused
rife, ripe (see synonym study at ripe)
3. plenteous, multitudinous; teeming, swarming.
3. scarce. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rife
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Speculation was rife as to who would inherit the estate which he left behind him.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • Such symptoms, when a disease of the kind is rife, are usually the signs of sickening.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • So this is the little maid of whom wonderful rumours are so rife?

    The Scapegoat Hall Caine
  • Assassinations and pillage are too rife to make absence easy.

  • The speculations which once would have been rife enough, were now silent.

    St. Patrick's Eve Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for rife


adjective (postpositive)
of widespread occurrence; prevalent or current: rumour was rife in the village
very plentiful; abundant
(foll by with) abounding (in): a land rife with poverty
Derived Forms
rifely, adverb
rifeness, noun
Word Origin
Old English rīfe; related to Old Norse rīfr generous, Middle Dutch rīve
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 rife

Old English rife "abundant, common, prevalent," from Proto-Germanic *rif- (cf. Old Norse rifr, Swedish river, Norwegian riv, Middle Dutch riif, Middle Low German rive "abundant, generous"), said to be from PIE root *rei- "to scratch, tear, cut" "The prevalence of the word in early southern texts is in favour of its being native in English, rather than an adoption from Scandinavian." [OED]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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