a high steep face of a rock.
a critical point or situation beyond which something bad or undesirable may occur: The committee is right up to the cliff with no deal in sight.

Origin of cliff

before 900; Middle English clif, Old English, cognate with Dutch, Low German, Old Norse klif
Related formscliff·like, adjective

Synonyms for cliff




a male given name, form of Clifford or Clifton. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for cliff

wall, bluff, precipice, crag, escarpment, scar, face, scarp

Examples from the Web for cliff

Contemporary Examples of cliff

Historical Examples of cliff

  • Nothing showed on the rocks, nothing showed on the face of the cliff.

  • In the meantime someone had picked up the trail to the cliff, and Dozier followed it.

  • And then they came to the edge of the cliff, where the heel marks ended.

  • She looked over the cliff down an appalling depth of hundreds of feet.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • They were at the foot of a cliff, over which the animal had probably fallen.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

British Dictionary definitions for cliff



a steep high rock face, esp one that runs along the seashore and has the strata exposed
Derived Formscliffy, adjective

Word Origin for cliff

Old English clif; related to Old Norse kleif, Middle Low German klēf, Dutch klif; see cleave ²
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 cliff

Old English clif "rock, promontory, steep slope," from Proto-Germanic *kliban (cf. Old Saxon clif, Old Norse klif, Middle Dutch klippe, Dutch klip, Old High German klep, German Klippe "cliff, promontory, steep rock").

Clift has been a variant spelling since 15c. and was common in early Modern English, influenced by or merged with clift, a variant of cleft (n.). Cliff-dweller first attested 1889, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper