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or riff

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verb (used with object), riffed, rif·fing. Informal.
  1. to discharge (a person) from military or civil service, especially as part of an economy program.
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Origin of rif

First recorded in 1945–50; special use of RIF


  1. a melodic phrase, often constantly repeated, forming an accompaniment or part of an accompaniment for a soloist.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to perform riffs.
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Origin of riff1

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


verb (used with object) Informal.
  1. rif.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for riffing


Riff Rifi (ˈrɪfɪ)

  1. plural Rifs, Riffs, Rifis, Rif, Riff or Rifi a member of a Berber people, inhabiting the Atlas Mountains in Morocco
  2. Also called: Rifian, Riffian (ˈrɪfɪən) the dialect of Berber spoken by this people
  3. See Er Rif
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  1. (in jazz or rock music) a short series of chords
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  1. (intr) to play or perform riffs in jazz or rock music
  2. informal to speak amusingly or make (amusing comments or remarks)
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Word Origin

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 riffing



"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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper