One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1no object To become wrinkled or shrivelled; to form wrinkles or small folds.
2with object To cause (something, especially the skin) to wrinkle, pucker, or shrivel. Also with up. Also without object. Now rare (in later use poetic and English regional (west midlands and south-western)).
with object To unravel, untangle (literal and figurative). Chiefly with †up, out. Now Newfoundland.
Old English. Apparently from Old English rifian to become wrinkled + -le<br>late Middle English (in an earlier sense). Origin uncertain. Perhaps from Middle French rivler to ravel (although this is first attested later: 1530 in Palsgrave; French regional (Walloon) si rifler to fray), probably a specifically use of rifler. Compare also Middle High German rifelen, riffeln to heckle, to comb. Compare later rivel.
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