American English Dictionary

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riff (rɪf Pronunciation for )




  1. a constantly repeated musical phrase used esp. as background for a soloist or as the basic theme of a final chorus (a term that originated in jazz music)
  2. (informal) a short, incisive comment, passage, or scene, often one of several functioning as variations on a theme, in a speech, novel, film, etc.

intransitive verb

  1. to play a riff (a term that originated in jazz music)
  2. (informal) to make use of a riff or riffs

Word Origin

prob. altered < refrain2

Riff1 (rɪf Pronunciation for )



Word forms:   plural Riffs, ˈRiffi  (rɪfi Pronunciation for
  1. a member of a Berber people living in the Rif and nearby regions

Derived Forms

ˈRiffian (ˈrɪfiən Pronunciation for  adjective, noun

Riff2 (rɪf Pronunciation for )


  1. (alt. sp. of) Rif

Translations for 'riff'

  • American English: riff In jazz and rock music, a riff is a short, repeated tune. riffs
  • Brazilian Portuguese: motivo musical repetido em uma canção
  • Chinese: 反复的音乐小节爵士或摇滚乐反复複的音乐樂小节節
  • European Spanish: riff
  • French: riff
  • German: Riff
  • Italian: riff
  • Japanese: リフ
  • Korean: 재즈나 락 음악에서 반복되는 악절
  • Portuguese: motivo musical repetido numa canção
  • Spanish: riff

Example Sentences Including 'riff'

It was absurd, really, like a sit-com riff , "Tell your father to pass the salt," "Tell your mother to get it herself.
Patricia Gaffney FLIGHT LESSONS (2002)
The book also hits a low during a riff about Amazon's policy of corporate partnering.
Wired (2002)
"I can't find the hook," Reid says about the musical riff that can make a pop tune unforgettable.
USA Today (2002)
In a black dress and bonnet and with her sign language shtick, they'll do a riff on her "The Piano" movie.
New York Post (2003)
Sandy told me he would have given L. B. J. a Dallas riff : `Mr. Shaw owns six percent of Oil Field Thirteen?
Geng, Veronica Love Trouble is my Business (1988)


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