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[tar-if] /ˈtær ɪf/
an official list or table showing the duties or customs imposed by a government on imports or exports.
the schedule or system of duties so imposed.
any duty or rate of duty in such a list or schedule.
any table of charges, as of a railroad, bus line, etc.
bill; cost; charge.
verb (used with object)
to subject to a tariff.
to put a valuation on according to a tariff.
1585-95; earlier tariffa < Italian < Arabic taʿrīfah, derivative of ʿarrafa to make known
Related forms
tariffless, adjective
pretariff, noun, adjective
protariff, adjective
retariff, verb (used with object) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for tariffs
  • Utilities, for their part, complain about the added complexity of feed-in tariffs for homeowners.
  • Expect to see this kind of nonsense repeated around the world as more tariffs are announced.
  • The body commits members to reducing all tariffs to zero within ten years.
  • Wealthy people can afford higher tariffs for gas guzzlers as well as the fuel that runs them.
  • We are skeptical that punitive tariffs are the answer.
  • Countries that cannot will almost certainly resort to trade tariffs.
  • The corn lobby made that possible, promoting sugar import tariffs.
  • Finally, there is a little more information on tariffs.
  • But of course, tariffs aren't good and free trade isn't bad.
  • They should be used where they can be justified economically, and without government tariffs propping them up.
British Dictionary definitions for tariffs


  1. a tax levied by a government on imports or occasionally exports for purposes of protection, support of the balance of payments, or the raising of revenue
  2. a system or list of such taxes
any schedule of prices, fees, fares, etc
(mainly Brit)
  1. a method of charging for the supply of services, esp public services, such as gas and electricity: block tariff
  2. a schedule of such charges
(mainly Brit) a bill of fare with prices listed; menu
(Brit) the level of punishment imposed for a criminal offence
verb (transitive)
to set a tariff on
to set a price on according to a schedule of tariffs
Derived Forms
tariffless, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Italian tariffa, from Arabic ta`rīfa to inform
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 tariffs



1590s, "arithmetical table," from Italian tariffa, Medieval Latin tarifa "list of prices, book of rates," from Arabic ta'rif "information, notification, inventory of fees to be paid," verbal noun from arafa "to make known." Meaning "official list of customs duties on imports or exports" is from 1590s; sense of "classified list of charges made in a business" is recorded from 1757.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tariffs in Culture

tariff definition

A government tax on imports, designed either to raise revenue or to protect domestic industry from foreign competition.

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