from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A narrow fissure in rock.
  • n. A break in friendly relations: a rift between siblings.
  • intransitive v. To split open; break.
  • transitive v. To cause to split open or break.
  • n. A shallow area in a waterway.
  • n. The backwash of a wave that has broken upon a beach.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A chasm or fissure.
  • n. A break in the clouds, fog, mist etc., which allows light through.
  • v. To form a rift.
  • v. To belch.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • p. p. of rive.
  • n. An opening made by riving or splitting; a cleft; a fissure.
  • n. A shallow place in a stream; a ford.
  • transitive v. To cleave; to rive; to split
  • intransitive v. To burst open; to split.
  • intransitive v. To belch.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An opening made by riving or splitting; a fissure; a cleft or crevice; a chink.
  • n. A riving or splitting; a shattering.
  • To rive; cleave; split.
  • To make or effect by cleavage.
  • To burst open; split.
  • Split; specifically, following the general direction of the splitting or checking: said of a log: as, rift pine boards. Compare quartered, 4.
  • n. A veil; a curtain.
  • To belch.
  • n. A shallow place in a stream; a fording-place; also, rough water indicating submerged rocks.
  • n. In wood-working, a saw in which the cutting-teeth are placed at the ends of radial arms instead of upon the rim of a disk.
  • n. In geology, one of the principal cleavages or planes of weakness in building-stone, as quarried, of which the quarrymen take advantage. The two others, commonly occurring at right angles with it and with one another, are called the cut-off and the lift.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a narrow fissure in rock
  • n. a personal or social separation (as between opposing factions)
  • n. a gap between cloud masses


Middle English, of Scandinavian origin.
Probably alteration of dialectal riff, reef, from Dutch rif, riffe; see reef1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Danish/Norwegian rift 'breach', Old Norse rífa 'to tear'. More at rive. (Wiktionary)
From Old Norse rypta. (Wiktionary)



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  • A belch. --A Provincial Glossary, 1787.
    Century Dictionary lists "to belch" under the noun definitions of rift.

    May 5, 2011