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[rift] /rɪft/
an opening made by splitting, cleaving, etc.; fissure; cleft; chink.
an open space, as in a forest or cloud mass, or a clear interval.
a break in friendly relations:
a rift between two people; a rift between two nations.
a difference in opinion, belief, or interest that causes such a break in friendly relations.
  1. a fault.
  2. a graben of regional extent.
the plane or direction along which a log or mass of granite can most easily be split.
wood or a piece of wood that has been split radially from a log.
verb (used with object), verb (used 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 forms
riftless, adjective
unrifted, adjective
Can be confused
riff, rift.
3. breach, rupture, estrangement, falling-out. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for rift
  • Ten million years from now the entire rift may be submerged.
  • The small lake sits in the slightly elongate rift area where the eruption occurred.
  • The crisis has caused a rift in the hitherto friendly relations between the two countries.
  • As the two sides of a rift valley diverge, the valley eventually falls below sea level and floods.
  • High on the agenda: repairing the rift between rich and poor countries over farm subsidies.
  • But they are big obstacles to healing the continent's historic east-west rift.
  • The resulting reduction in pressure in the rift allows magma to be forced upward by the weight of the overlying crust and mantle.
  • Two trends show the increasing rift between companies and the tax authorities.
  • Nothing much different than what's found at the bottom of our oceans near the rift of continental plates.
  • But behind the scenes a rift is opening up in her coalition.
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 chink: he 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
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
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
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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
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rift in Science
  1. A continental rift.

  2. A narrow break, crack, or other opening in a rock, usually made by cracking or splitting.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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