verb (used with or without object)

to burst open; split.

Origin of rift

1250–1300; Middle English < Old Norse ript breaking of an agreement (compare Danish, Norwegian rift cleavage), derivative of rīfa to tear (cognate with rive)
Related formsrift·less, adjectiveun·rift·ed, adjective
Can be confusedriff rift

Synonyms for rift

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

Examples from the Web for rift

Contemporary Examples of rift

Historical Examples of rift

  • To-day, however, there was a rift in these dark clouds of consequence.

    Jan and Her Job

    L. Allen Harker

  • And then, because he could not shout and because he could not loosen himself, there came a rift in his madness.

    Happy Ending

    Fredric Brown

  • Presently there was a rift in the clouds; and a red glow arose in the west.

  • The rift was gradually widening, and the forest on either side thinned.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • They believed the range might yet show a rift at this end which their wagons could traverse.

    When the West Was Young

    Frederick R. Bechdolt

British Dictionary definitions for rift




a gap or space made by cleaving or splitting; fissure
geology a long narrow zone of faulting resulting from tensional stress in the earth's crust
a gap between two cloud masses; break or chinkhe saw the sun through a rift in the clouds
a break in friendly relations between people, nations, etc


to burst or cause to burst open; split

Word Origin for rift

C13: from Old Norse; related to Danish rift cleft, Icelandic ript breach of contract



noun US

a shallow or rocky part in a stream
the backwash from a wave that has just broken

Word Origin for rift

C14: from Old Norse rypta; related to Icelandic ropa to belch
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 rift

early 14c., "a split, act of splitting," from a Scandinavian source (cf. Danish and Norwegian rift "a cleft," Old Icelandic ript (pronounced "rift") "breach;" related to Old Norse ripa "to break a contract" (see riven). Figurative use from 1620s. Geological sense from 1921. As a verb, c.1300.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

rift in Science



A continental rift.
A narrow break, crack, or other opening in a rock, usually made by cracking or splitting.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.