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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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About this entry:
First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

RIFE, adj., adv., n. Also ryffe; ¶reef. Compar. rifer.

Sc. usages:

I. adj. 1. With coll. or sing. n.: plentiful, abundant. Gen.Sc. Now obsol. in Eng.Ags. 1790 D. Morison Poems 130:
Wha gets the lad she loves, tho' gear's nae rife.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales II. 276:
Red wine and strong brandy will be as rife as dyke-water.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 34:
Siller maun be rife wi' ye.

2. With o, wi: having plenty of, rich in, well supplied with (Sh., Ags., Per., Bwk., Kcb. 1968).Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 13:
Of warldly Comforts she was rife.
Mry. 1728 Elchies Letters (MacWilliam) 44:
I am not att present very rife of silver.
Edb. 1772 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 68:
While glakit fools, o'er rife o' cash, Pamper their weyms wi' fousom trash.
Rnf. 1813 E. Picken Poems I. 21:
O, Jamie! ilka day wi' ills is rife.
Slg. 1827 W. Hone Every-Day Bk. II. 18:
It is deemed lucky to see the new moon with some money in the pocket. A similar idea is perhaps connected with the desire to enter the new year rife o' roughness.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 377:
Tenants who were not very rife of funds.
Bwk. 1899 A. T. G. Ann. Thornlea 46:
They're maybe ower rife o' siller.

3. Applied to festive occasions: characterised by abundance, “high”; fashionable (Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 154, reef, Ork. 1968).Ork. 1913 Old-Lore Misc. VI. i. 20:
On “rife nights”, such as Hallowe'en, Christmas, and New Year's Eve, &c., Mansie always made a point to place food in the house for the fairy wife.

4. With wi: lavish, generous, unstinting with.Sc. 1887 Jam.:
He's unco rife wi' his promises.
Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xix.:
We're kind o' tired o' rhubarb . . . I wish folk were so rife wi' plooms or strawberries.

5. Quick, ready or eager for (I.Sc. 1968).Abd. 1853 W. Cadenhead Bon-Accord 192:
Ready for ony devilry, and rife for ony splore.
Abd. 1920 G. P. Dunbar Peat Reek 44:
He thocht that for news she micht be unco rife.

II. adv. 1. Plentifully, abundantly. Gen.Sc.Edb. 1791 J. Learmont Poems 282:
Young healthfou bairns ga'en reeling in it rife.
Sc. 1828 Scott F.M. Perth iii.:
Man must have a short lease of his life, in any place where blows are going so rife.

2. Generally, currently.Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 19:
Baith mill an' smithy had it now fu' ryffe, That Lindy an' Nory wad be man and wife.

III. n. Plenty, abundance.Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) II. 131:
Attend th' Assembly, where there's Rife Of vertuous Maids to please ye.

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"Rife adj., adv., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Nov 2023 <>



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