Definition of riffle in English:



  • 1 Turn 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’
    • ‘I pointed to the porcelain-faced queen on whatever news channel he was watching: she was riffling through her papers with an air of slightly frantic boredom.’
    • ‘Pouching the envelope David took his thumb and slowly riffled the little pad of bills it contained as he held it out for Jack to see.’
    • ‘It'll be nice to open the parcel and riffle through the pages of a new book.’
    • ‘‘Okay, well, everything is in order,’ he said, riffling through a few papers, ‘You may go for homeroom.’’
    • ‘He riffled through a few pages, his eyes quickly following the lines.’
    • ‘A few days ago, I was riffling through the more obscure volumes on Tchaikovsky held by Cambridge University and, when the dust settled, I found a highly instructive story about the Fifth Symphony.’
    • ‘While Romi riffled through the address book, little Siddharth butted in with the numbers.’
    • ‘Each student riffles through the day's recipes, contained in a dark green Raffles Culinary Academy file folder, as Chef Charlie's assistant gets a massive pot of water boiling on a gas-fired hob about a meter in front of the class seats.’
    • ‘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 sat up suddenly and turned to jack, who was riffling through some papers on his desk.’
    • ‘So she decided to create a book in which ‘his past and present could be collated and given to him - to riffle through, see, read and preserve.’’
    • ‘He hesitated for a brief moment, then picked up his address book and, riffling worn pages, looked up the numbers of his team mates.’
    • ‘Oh, I read a lot of excerpts, saw a play or two, took in the movie Shakespeare in Love and riffled through King Lear enough to realize he was no relation (having only daughters).’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He picked up the first one, riffled through the pages, sighed with contentment and moved on to the next one, then the next.’
    • ‘‘My fee for bringing you food,’ he explained as he plopped on his bed and began riffling through a stack of papers.’
    • ‘I riffled through a book called ‘The Book of Shadows’ by Lady Sheba.’
    • ‘With a murmur of thanks he took it from me and began rapidly riffling through the pages until he came to ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle.’’
    • ‘I'd sit down with Rick or Barry and make them riffle through the book of their choice.’
    • ‘If you happen to notice someone riffling through the fuchsia pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport, you're in luck.’
    1. 1.1riffle through Search quickly through (something), especially so as to cause disorder.
      ‘she riffled through her leather handbag’
      • ‘Track-suited women riffled through the mounds of wild mushrooms, checking for tiny worms.’
      • ‘Her costume changes - including fetish boots and a military cap for ‘Pure Pleasure Seeker’ - have the deranged playfulness of a girl riffling through a dressing-up box.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Hey, I'll just go back to riffling through your kitchen while you guys talk.’
      • ‘She finishes rehearsal, returns to her rented atelier in Chelsea and riffles through her (mostly Canadian) collection of music.’
      • ‘Instead, she was riffling through a pile of multi-colored clothes.’
      • ‘He pulls out a drawer beside me, and starts riffling through it, obviously he doesn't find what he's looking for, because he slams the drawer a moment later and opens the one below it.’
      • ‘I riffled though my wardrobe (most of the costumes used are from my wardrobe) and found a 1960s sundress, totally perfect for Lee Krasner on holiday.’
      • ‘The morning of the wedding we're in Grace Brothers riffling through the racks.’
      • ‘Two senior security staff at Finnish telco Sonera have been remanded in custody, charged with breaching customer privacy by allegedly riffling through private telephone records in an attempt to identify an internal mole.’
      • ‘Thieves attacked a man on crutches in front of his teenage daughter, knocking him to the ground and riffling thorough his pockets in a Hanworth street last week.’
      • ‘You see it over and over again; an administrator suspects a machine has been hacked and starts riffling through the file system looking for anything out of the ordinary.’
      • ‘I always riffle through the pile of packages looking for the rump cuts, which are among the smaller and paler slices and are made up of three muscles, each one separated by a fine membrane.’
      • ‘Should we worry that the government will be riffling through public and commercial databases in search of suspicious activity?’
      • ‘‘And I will,’ Eliza insisted, riffling through her closet.’
      • ‘Traditional privacy rights are eroding at a time when the Pentagon is experimenting with riffling through databases in search of patterns of terrorist activity.’
      • ‘‘Any title you want, we can get you,’ Min boasted, riffling through a box of pirated game CDs wrapped in plastic.’
      • ‘And then, just remember that before you know it, you'll be hitting the back-to-school sales and riffling through the sweaters you have stored in the attic.’
      • ‘Kina continued riffling through the box, extracting song, poems, pieces of the past she'd never throw away despite the pain and resentment that clung to them.’
      • ‘Katie crept up the stairs to her room and quickly riffled through her desk drawer to find her wallet.’
      leaf through, flick through, run through, skim through, scan, look through, riffle through, browse through, dip into, glance at, glance through, peruse, read quickly, have a quick look at, run one's eye over, give something a once-over, give something the once-over
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[with object] Disturb the surface of; ruffle.
      ‘there was a slight breeze that riffled her hair’
      • ‘So a current of anxiety riffled the air at ‘Hair.’’
      • ‘The bright sun shines in a cloudless sky, and a light breeze riffles the clear waters of an open pool in the sea ice of McMurdo Sound.’
      • ‘The indios picked up their children in the plaza beyond and shook them with joy; cool wind riffled clean cyan cotton blouses.’
      • ‘I could feel the blow in my gut and kidneys, sheer panic, creeping up my back and riffling the hair on my scalp.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Colombian President Andres Pastrana, a light breeze riffling his silvered hair, steps forward to accept this generous gift from the American people.’
      • ‘From their nesting sites in the Colca Canyon, the deepest gorge in the world, these graceful giants of the sky fly along the canyon's rim and come so close you can hear the breeze riffling through their feathers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A calm surface favors the finesse of a dogwalker, and a riffled surface suggests the increased commotion of a chugger or a slush-type plug rigged with propellers.’
      • ‘He compares this to the winnowing of grains in a sieve, or the sorting of pebbles riffled by the tide: it is as if there were a kind of attraction of like to like.’
      make ripples in, ripple, riffle, roughen
      disarrange, tousle, dishevel, rumple, run one's fingers through, make untidy, tumble, riffle, disorder
      View synonyms
    3. 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.
      • ‘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.

    • ‘Faintly, though not frequently, a riffle of doubt perturbs Krugman's chipmunk paeans to the Clinton Age.’
    1. 1.1 The rustle of paper being leafed through.
    2. 1.2 A shuffle performed by riffling playing cards.
      • ‘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.’
  • 2North American A rocky or shallow part of a stream or river with rough water.

    • ‘We clambered over mossy boulders beneath a canopy of big-leaf maple, bay, and fir, and covered six-tenths of a mile of sparkling riffles and cascades.’
    • ‘The ore itself had to be weathered before sluicing in a process similar to gold placering, in which dirt was washed through sluice boxes so that heavier elements-like gold and sapphires-dropped to the bottom and became lodged in riffles.’
    • ‘Given their natural size advantage, salmon are competitively dominant and increase the proportion of trout occupying riffle habitat, whereas trout have little effect on habitat selection by salmon.’
    • ‘The channel morphology was characterized by alternating riffle, run, and pool segments that averaged 10-15 m in length.’
    • ‘At night, some subdominant fish can be observed in pool and riffle margins, although numbers are low relative to the number of fish active by day.’
    • ‘Emerald-headed mallards bob alongside kayakers in the river's riffles of whitewater.’
    • ‘One minute you're in a sharp, spluttering, stony riffle, and then you're in a swift, frictionless, swirling run, or in a deep slow pool of long vowels and slow consonants.’
    • ‘This meant behind rocks and other obstructions; beneath undercut banks; in or near the riffles, where the surface is ruffled and opaque; at the inside corners of those meanders; or in the shade of overhanging sagebrush or willows.’
    • ‘We limited our selection of sites to approximately second to fourth order streams, and selected sites with naturally-occurring riffle zones having gravel-cobble-boulder substrate.’
    • ‘They added more than 20 riffle weirs, 15 post vanes, and 80,000 willows to slow water down, protect streambanks, increase habitat and raise the water table.’
    • ‘For example, if the reach containing the section fished was of high gradient with a predominance of riffles, then the section sampled reflected that character by including a predominance of riffles.’
    • ‘Sampling locations were selected based on suitable habitat consisting of gravel and cobble substrates associated with riffles and runs and, to a large extent, accessibility.’
    • ‘A rainbow stud, resplendent in his best dress uniform, stakes out and defends his riffle against all invaders, threatening would-be rivals with vicious fin-to-fin combat.’
    • ‘The mild rapids turn to riffles and become fewer and fewer from here to the takeout.’
    • ‘Sampling reaches were selected to include riffle habitats with substrate composed primarily of cobble, gravel, and boulder.’
    • ‘Chub are stream fish, and like other soft-rayed species, are common in more turbulent riffles and races to which they are displaced by predation risk.’
    • ‘We look hopefully at markings on our map like Pablo's Rapid and Dead Man Rapid, but they prove to be little more than riffles and a slight acceleration in the current.’
    • ‘In the Pacific Northwest, several species of Pacific salmon grow in the riffles of cold-flowing rivers far from the sea.’
    • ‘The stream has now become nothing more than a sediment sluice with rock pools filled-in with sand and gravel, and former riffle reaches submerged in sediment.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 2.1 A patch of waves or ripples.
      • ‘I peered across the chops and riffles and saw the dark backs and tails of a seething school of redfish.’
      • ‘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.’


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