Definition of riffle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈrifəl/


[no object]
1Turn over something, especially the pages of a book, quickly and casually: he riffled through the pages [with object]: she opened a book with her thumbnail and riffled the pages
More example sentences
  • Only a devout rationalist could see the image of the Book of Gospels on the coffin, its pages riffled by unseen fingers - okay, the wind - and not find it eerie.
  • He hesitated for a brief moment, then picked up his address book and, riffling worn pages, looked up the numbers of his team mates.
  • He did not look up as a black robed figure plopped itself down on the desk next to the book, and slender fingers played with the edges of the paper, riffling the pages.
1.1 (riffle through) Search quickly through (something), especially so as to cause disorder: she riffled through her leather handbag
More example sentences
  • Traditional privacy rights are eroding at a time when the Pentagon is experimenting with riffling through databases in search of patterns of terrorist activity.
  • Katie crept up the stairs to her room and quickly riffled through her desk drawer to find her wallet.
  • He rubbed a weary hand over his face and turned towards the small kitchen where he riffled through the fridge, searching for something, anything, that was edible.
1.2 [with object] Disturb the surface of; ruffle: there was a slight breeze that riffled her hair
More example sentences
  • He was walking that day head down, abstracted in his notecards, noticing neither the fineness of the weather, the unevenness of the pavement, or the breeze riffling the surface of the river beneath the bridge.
  • Colombian President Andres Pastrana, a light breeze riffling his silvered hair, steps forward to accept this generous gift from the American people.
  • Down below, tiny fiddler crabs raced along the mud, the males each waving an oversized pincer as minnows and larger fish riffled the water's surface.
1.3 [with object] Shuffle (playing cards) by flicking up and releasing the corners or sides of two piles of cards so that they intermingle and may be slid together to form a single pile.
Example sentences
  • They may riffle or strip too high and, again, inadvertently expose cards allowing you to know their approximate location.


1 [usually in singular] A quick or casual leaf or search through something.
Example sentences
  • Faintly, though not frequently, a riffle of doubt perturbs Krugman's chipmunk paeans to the Clinton Age.
1.1The rustle of paper being leafed through.
1.2A shuffle performed by riffling playing cards.
Example sentences
  • Indeed, to keep games moving along at a brisk pace, blackjack dealers don't always take the time to perform the seven riffle shuffles necessary to achieve an adequate level of mixing.
2chiefly North American A rocky or shallow part of a stream or river with rough water.
Example sentences
  • In the Pacific Northwest, several species of Pacific salmon grow in the riffles of cold-flowing rivers far from the sea.
  • Emerald-headed mallards bob alongside kayakers in the river's riffles of whitewater.
  • This boat is fun in a class 1 riffle, and once you get the hang of it, you can use it to run up to class 3 rapids.
2.1A patch of waves or ripples.
Example sentences
  • With Mr Chambers by my side, seemingly unaware of the ordeal ahead, we parked the car and stared out over the arctic water - a slate-grey roiling torrent - without a hint of the alluring eddies and riffles of summer.
  • I peered across the chops and riffles and saw the dark backs and tails of a seething school of redfish.


Late 18th century (sense 2 of the noun): perhaps from a variant of the verb ruffle, influenced by ripple.

Words that rhyme with riffle

piffle, skiffle, sniffle, whiffle

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: rif·fle

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