or riff


verb (used with object), riffed, rif·fing. Informal.

to discharge (a person) from military or civil service, especially as part of an economy program.

Origin of rif

First recorded in 1945–50; special use of RIF




a melodic phrase, often constantly repeated, forming an accompaniment or part of an accompaniment for a soloist.

verb (used without object)

to perform riffs.

Origin of riff

First recorded in 1930–35; perhaps alteration and shortening of refrain2
Can be confusedriff rift



verb (used with object) Informal.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for riffed

Contemporary Examples of riffed

  • The Daily Beast: In the 1920s, Chaim Soutine riffed on Rembrandt's butchery.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Oil Paint, Dry-Aged and Beefy

    Blake Gopnik

    June 28, 2013

  • Warhol and Lichtenstein riffed on product logos and comic books because it was ironic.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Accidental Artist

    Rachel Wolff

    October 15, 2009

British Dictionary definitions for riffed


Riff Rifi (ˈrɪfɪ)


plural Rifs, Riffs, Rifis, Rif, Riff or Rifi a member of a Berber people, inhabiting the Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Also called: Rifian, Riffian (ˈrɪfɪən) the dialect of Berber spoken by this people
See Er Rif



(in jazz or rock music) a short series of chords


(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

Word Origin and History for riffed



"melodic phrase in jazz," 1935 (but said to have been used by musicians since c.1917), of uncertain origin, perhaps a shortened form of riffle, or altered from refrain. The verb is attested from 1942, from the noun. Also in extended use. Related: Riffed; riffing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper