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See more synonyms for fife on Thesaurus.com
  1. a high-pitched transverse flute used commonly in military and marching musical groups.
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verb (used with or without object), fifed, fif·ing.
  1. to play on a fife.
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Origin of fife

1540–50; < German Pfeife pipe1
Related formsfif·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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.

  • Questioned, what was the personal appearance and age of the said fifer.

  • Well, well, bring the drum, and order our fifer to come here.

    Good Stories For Great Holidays

    Frances Jenkins Olcott

British Dictionary definitions for fifer


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

Word Origin

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)
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  1. DuncanSee Duncan Phyfe
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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 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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

fifer in Culture


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

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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.