See more synonyms for fife on
verb (used with or without object), fifed, fif·ing.
  1. to play on a fife.

Origin of fife

1540–50; < German Pfeife pipe1
Related formsfif·er, noun


  1. Also called Fife·shire [fahyf-sheer, -sher] /ˈfaɪf ʃɪər, -ʃər/. a historic county in E Scotland.
  2. a region in E Scotland. 504 sq. mi. (1305 sq. km). Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for fife

Contemporary Examples of fife

Historical Examples of fife

  • Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • We have a great many flutes and flageolets, but not often the sound of any fife.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • There were brass bands, drum and fife bands, and bands of bagpipes.

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • They might have been read to an accompaniment of fife and drums.

    An Orkney Maid

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

  • But is it not better than the simple drum and fife of a common training-day?

British Dictionary definitions for fife


  1. a small high-pitched flute similar to the piccolo and usually having no keys, used esp in military bands
  1. to play (music) on a fife
Derived Formsfifer, noun

Word Origin for fife

C16: from Old High German pfīfa; see pipe 1


  1. 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)


  1. DuncanSee 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

Word Origin and History for fife

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

fife in Culture


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.