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riff

[ rif ]
/ rɪf /
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noun
Jazz. a melodic phrase, often constantly repeated, forming an accompaniment or part of an accompaniment for a soloist.
a new variation on or a different manifestation of an existing thing or idea (often followed by on): This is an eco-conscious riff on the study-abroad experience.
verb (used without object)
Jazz. to perform a repeated melodic phrase, forming an accompaniment for a soloist.
to experiment with a thing or idea, making changes that create a new and novel version of it (often followed by on): My partner likes to let his ideas quietly simmer, but I prefer to riff on mine in conversations where I can bounce my thoughts off other people.
to create, write, or perform something, like a comedy routine, using a common or known point of departure and following a previously unexplored tangent from that known point to a fresh or humorous perspective (often followed by on or off): My act riffs off famous love stories and adds modern feminist elements to unmask the absurdity of “happily ever after” in fairy tales.
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Origin of riff

First recorded in 1930–35; perhaps alteration and shortening of refrain2

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH riff

riff , rift

Other definitions for riff (2 of 2)

Riff
[ rif ]
/ rɪf /

noun, plural Riffs, Riff·i [rif-ee], /ˈrɪf i/, (especially collectively) Riff.
a member of the Berber people living in Er Rif in northern Morocco.

OTHER WORDS FROM Riff

Rif·fi·an, adjective, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use riff in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for riff

riff
/ (rɪf) music /

noun
(in jazz or rock music) a short series of chords
verb
(intr) to play or perform riffs in jazz or rock music
informal to speak amusingly or make (amusing comments or remarks)

Word Origin for riff

C20: probably altered and shortened from refrain 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
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