a high-pitched transverse flute used commonly in military and marching musical groups.
verb (used without object), verb (used with object), fifed, fifing.
to play on a fife.

1540–50; < German Pfeife pipe1

fifer, noun Unabridged


Also called Fifeshire [fahyf-sheer, -sher] . a historic county in E Scotland.
a region in E Scotland. 504 sq. mi. (1305 sq. km). Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To fife
World English Dictionary
fife (faɪf)
1.  a small high-pitched flute similar to the piccolo and usually having no keys, used esp in military bands
2.  to play (music) on a fife
[C16: from Old High German pfīfa; see pipe1]

Fife1 (faɪf)
a council area and historical county of E central Scotland, bordering on the North Sea between the Firths of Tay and Forth: coastal lowlands in the north and east, with several ranges of hills; mainly agricultural. Administrative centre: Glenrothes. Pop: 352 040 (2003 est). Area: 1323 sq km (511 sq miles)

Fife2 (faɪf)
See Duncan Phyfe Duncan

Phyfe or Fife (faɪf)
Duncan. ?1768--1854, US cabinet-maker, born in Scotland
Fife or Fife

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

1540 (implied in fifer), from Ger. Pfeife "fife, pipe," from O.H.G. pfifa, or via M.Fr. fifre (15c.) from the same O.H.G. word. Ger. musicians provided music for most European courts in those days.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

fife definition

A small flute with a high, piercing tone, used mainly in military bands.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
Encyclopedia Britannica


small transverse (side-blown) flute with six finger holes and a narrow cylindrical bore that produces a high pitch and shrill tone. The modern fife, pitched to the A above middle C, is about 15.5 inches (39 cm) long and often has an added E hole covered by a key. Its compass is about two octaves. Fifes of conical bore have also been made since the 19th century.

Learn more about fife with a free trial on

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Cite This Source
Example sentences for fife
The county buildings are still used by fife council although few services remain there.
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature