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  1. the act or process of cutting spiral grooves in a gun barrel, pipe, etc.
  2. the system of spiral grooves so cut.

Origin of rifling1

First recorded in 1790–1800; rifle1 + -ing1


  1. the act or process of ransacking or robbing.

Origin of rifling2


[rahy-fuh l]
  1. a shoulder firearm with spiral grooves cut in the inner surface of the gun barrel to give the bullet a rotatory motion and thus a more precise trajectory.
  2. one of the grooves.
  3. a cannon with such grooves.
  4. (often initial capital letter) rifles, any of certain military units or bodies equipped with rifles.
verb (used with object), ri·fled, ri·fling.
  1. to cut spiral grooves within (a gun barrel, pipe, etc.).
  2. to propel (a ball) at high speed, as by throwing or hitting with a bat.

Origin of rifle1

1745–55; < Low German rīfeln to groove, derivative of rīve, riefe groove, flute, furrow; akin to Old English rifelede wrinkled


[rahy-fuh l]
verb (used with object), ri·fled, ri·fling.
  1. to ransack and rob (a place, receptacle, etc.).
  2. to search and rob (a person).
  3. to plunder or strip bare.
  4. to steal or take away.

Origin of rifle2

1325–75; Middle English rifel < Old French rifler to scratch, strip, plunder
Related formsri·fler, noun
Can be confusedriffle rifle


See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. See rob.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rifling

Historical Examples

  • The bullet was a Guedes, with no marks of rifling, and was in no way deformed.

    Surgical Experiences in South Africa, 1899-1900

    George Henry Makins

  • These other marks were made by the rifling of the barrel a barrel like this one.'

    Trent's Last Case

    E.C. (Edmund Clerihew) Bentley

  • Showing the machinery for boring and rifling heavy ordnance.

    Sixty Years a Queen

    Sir Herbert Maxwell

  • "Go on with your task of rifling the traveller's saddle-bags," she said, but made no movement to go.

    The Mercenary

    W. J. Eccott

  • Then he cut her throat, and leaving her for dead on the bed, 019proceeded with his rifling.

British Dictionary definitions for rifling


  1. the cutting of spiral grooves on the inside of a firearm's barrel
  2. the series of grooves so cut


    1. a firearm having a long barrel with a spirally grooved interior, which imparts to the bullet spinning motion and thus greater accuracy over a longer range
    2. (as modifier)rifle fire
  1. (formerly) a large cannon with a rifled bore
  2. one of the grooves in a rifled bore
  3. (plural)
    1. a unit of soldiers equipped with rifles
    2. (capital when part of a name)the Rifle Brigade
verb (tr)
  1. to cut or mould spiral grooves inside the barrel of (a gun)
  2. to throw or hit (a ball) with great speed

Word Origin

C18: from Old French rifler to scratch; related to Low German rifeln from riefe groove, furrow


verb (tr)
  1. to search (a house, safe, etc) and steal from it; ransack
  2. to steal and carry offto rifle goods from a shop
Derived Formsrifler, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French rifler to plunder, scratch, of Germanic origin
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

Word Origin and History for rifling



1775, "portable firearm having a spirally grooved bore," used earlier of the grooves themselves (1751), noun use of rifled (pistol), 1680s, from verb meaning "to cut spiral grooves in" (a gun barrel); see rifle (v.2).



"to plunder," early 14c. (implied in rifling), from Old French rifler "strip, filch, plunder, peel off (skin or bark), fleece," literally "to graze, scratch" (12c.), probably from a Germanic source (cf. Old English geriflian "to wrinkle," Old High German riffilon "to tear by rubbing," Old Norse rifa "to tear, break"). Related: Rifled; rifling.



"to cut spiral grooves in" (a gun barrel), 1630s, probably from French rifler, from Old French rifler "to scratch or groove" (see rifle (v.1)). Related: Rifled; rifling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper