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  1. an opening made by splitting, cleaving, etc.; fissure; cleft; chink.
  2. an open space, as in a forest or cloud mass, or a clear interval.
  3. a break in friendly relations: a rift between two people; a rift between two nations.
  4. a difference in opinion, belief, or interest that causes such a break in friendly relations.
  5. Geology.
    1. a fault.
    2. a graben of regional extent.
  6. the plane or direction along which a log or mass of granite can most easily be split.
  7. wood or a piece of wood that has been split radially from a log.
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verb (used with or without object)
  1. to burst open; split.
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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

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for rifting

rive, pull, divide, injure, mangle, separate, damage, snatch, break, shred, split, slash, crack, grab, yank, rupture, sever, wrench, fray, rend

Examples from the Web for rifting

Historical Examples of rifting

  • Glitter on the mountain heights you rifting specters bright.

    The Secret of the Creation

    Howard D. Pollyen

  • Through the rifting smoke, we could see their line sway to and fro; then it broke like a thaw in a great river.

    The Secret Service.

    Albert D. Richardson

British Dictionary definitions for rifting


  1. a gap or space made by cleaving or splitting; fissure
  2. geology a long narrow zone of faulting resulting from tensional stress in the earth's crust
  3. a gap between two cloud masses; break or chinkhe saw the sun through a rift in the clouds
  4. a break in friendly relations between people, nations, etc
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  1. to burst or cause to burst open; split
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Word Origin for rift

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


noun US
  1. a shallow or rocky part in a stream
  2. the backwash from a wave that has just broken
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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 rifting



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

rifting in Science


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