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The term, riff, was popularized by a Charlie Parker song.
  music:  repeated series of notes that forms the basis or accompaniment of a rock music or jazz composition
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riff riffs
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  • The term, riff, was popularized by a Charlie Parker song.
  • And when the piano riff at the start of the New Pornographers’ "Challengers" kicks in, I know I’ve put myself in good hands.
    Gayle Forman  --  Where She Went
  • It was on the long rides, in Annie’s car—which she preferred Mae to drive—that Annie would put her bare feet up or out the window, and would riff on the passing scenery, and would speculate, for hours, on what went on in the bedroom of their coaches, a married couple with matching, almost military, haircuts.
    Dave Eggers  --  The Circle
  • Riff Reynie waited at the window, his heart hammering.
    Trenton Lee Stewart  --  The Mysterious Benedict Society

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  • THE MISSION STATEMENT for the 2004 MATE Robotics Competition was a significant upgrade from the inaugural event’s brief riff on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
    Joshua Davis  --  Spare Parts
  • No, no, Trivole said, and then knocked on the door, a quick and happy musical riff.
    Dave Eggers  --  A Hologram for the King
  • I wondered how often she used her "hospital paperwork" riff to ease patients’ anxieties.
    Randy Pausch  --  The Last Lecture
  • Khufu ran his fingers down the frets of the guitar and ripped out a massive rock ’n’ roll riff.
    Rick Riordan  --  The Red Pyramid
  • My mother is like that, perverse for all her cleverness: she’d entertain some riff-raff, and turn out a solid man.
    Homer  --  The Odyssey
  • He raised his pipes to his mouth and played a quick riff The manticore yelled, "Stop him!"
    Rick Riordan  --  The Titan’s Curse

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  • Before, it had been an occasional crackle of gunfire, the steady rhythms of .50-caliber machine guns with the .60’s answering in short riffs.
    Walter Dean Myers  --  Fallen Angels
  • She fished a pencil from the table drawer and began to overlay her own work on his, scrawling rapid chord progressions and melodic riffs where her father had left off.
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Last Song
  • The worst riff-raff in the galaxy are sent to Salusa Secundus.
    Frank Herbert  --  Dune
  • One of these rapid, high-note riffs that black boys make up as they go while sweeping, shoveling, or just walking along.
    Toni Morrison  --  The Bluest Eye
  • You can’t help wondering again and again how there can possibly be such riff-raff among our own people.
    Wladyslaw Szpilman  --  The Pianist
  • "Will you get in?" begins Mr. Taylor, launching another discursive riff.
    Ron Suskind  --  A Hope in the Unseen
  • Then would be the time for discontented people, Lollards and Communists and Nationalists and all the riff-raff.
    T. H. White  --  The Once and Future King
  • I am a bit of dirty riff-raff, and a genuine scrap of tag, rag, and bobtail.’
    Charles Dickens  --  Hard Times
  • A peculiar circumstance attracted his attention: there seemed to be some kind of festivity going on, there were crowds of gaily dressed townspeople, peasant women, their husbands, and riff-raff of all sorts, all singing and all more or less drunk.
    Fyodor Dostoyevsky  --  Crime and Punishment
  • He played a little riff of something, a Beatles song, then a few lines of the latest version of "The Potato Opus."
    Sarah Dessen  --  This Lullaby
  • The princess had gone upstairs to her own room; she could not bear guests as a rule, and ’especially this new riff-raff lot,’ as she called them.
    Ivan Turgenev  --  Fathers and Sons
  • Someone would say, "One more question!" and everyone would stay for another hour and a half as Tomkins held forth on, say, comic books, a television sitcom, the biology of emotion, his problem with Kant, and his enthusiasm for the latest fad diets—all enfolded into one extended riff.
    Malcolm Gladwell  --  Blink
  • The tenor sax, alto sax, and trumpet throw in simple riffs every now and then.
    Haruki Murakami  --  After Dark
  • When I finally mastered about two or three saxophone riffs, such as those like "Sad Girl" which the East L.A. band Thee Midniters made popular, I started jamming with a couple of local garage bands.
    Luis J. Rodriguez  --  Always Running
  • "I can’t give you Mumps, ’em he’d break his heart to go away from me—eh, Mumps, what do you say, you riff-raff?"
    George Eliot  --  The Mill on the Floss
  • Then the door opened and I looked past their heads into a small crowded room of men and women sitting in folding chairs, to the front where a slender woman in a rusty black robe played passionate boogie-woogie on an upright piano along with a young man wearing a skull cap who struck righteous riffs from an electric guitar which was connected to an amplifier that hung from the ceiling above a gleaming white and gold pulpit.
    Ralph Ellison  --  Invisible Man
  • But he had entirely severed his connection with what he called "young Verdurin," taking a general view of him as one who had fallen—though without losing hold of his millions—among the riff-raff of Bohemia.
    Marcel Proust  --  Swann’s Way
  • As they approached, it was evident that Mr. Brooke was looking dejected, but this was fully accounted for by the state of politics; and as he was shaking hands all round without more greeting than a "Well, you’re all here, you know," the Rector said, laughingly— "Don’t take the throwing out of the Bill so much to heart, Brooke; you’ve got all the riff-raff of the country on your side."
    George Eliot  --  Middlemarch
  • And these policemen were unprincipled riff-raff, they talked at me till I was sick of it, they wanted bribes, they wanted to trick me into giving them my clothes, they wanted money, supposedly so that they could bring me my breakfast after they had blatantly eaten my own breakfast in front of my eyes.
    Franz Kafka  --  The Trial
  • It’s still clear, even to an amateur like me, that he’s missing notes, mixing passages from the Bach cello suites with riffs of his own and struggling with pitch.
    Steve Lopez  --  The Soloist
  • Joe was the only one of any Importance: the others were nonentities-the riff-raff one would expect any illegal movement to gather round itself The ideals of the Freedom League meant nothing to them: their only concern was earning a living with the minimum of work.
    Arthur C. Clarke  --  Childhood’s End
  • —I repeat, are you not ashamed, to mix with such riff-raff?
    Fyodor Dostoyevsky  --  The Idiot
  • At first he just wrote variations on Russian folk songs mixed with Jewish riffs.
    Nicole Krauss  --  The History of Love
  • The rock group Smashing Pumpkins was contributing mantralike riffs from a portable CD player.
    James Patterson  --  Kiss the Girls
  • FRANK: Upper-class riff-raff!
    Peter Shaffer  --  Equus
  • On the radio the muffled twang of a krar repeated a six-note riff from a pentatonic scale that seemed common to all Ethiopian music, fast or slow.
    Abraham Verghese  --  Cutting for Stone
  • He loved people of doubtful occupations and shifty purposes; and his acquaintance among the riff-raff that frequents the bars of London was enormous.
    W. Somerset Maugham  --  Of Human Bondage
  • Marc would laugh and join the riff whereas Steve would stop me, place a hand on my shoulder, and say, "You know that’s not really funny, right?"
    Alice Sebold  --  Lucky
  • If the beats were receptive to Lenny’s take on hypocrisy and related matters and if they regretted his drug busts and obscenity trials, they were probably unmoved by the Russian accents and other ethnic riffs and bits that came shpritzing out of him like seltzer from an old bottling plant in Canarsie.
    Don DeLillo  --  Underworld
  • Among nouns Thornton notes /fox-fire/, /flap-jack/, /jeans/, /molasses/, /beef/ (to designate the live animal), /chinch/, /cord-wood/, /homespun/, /ice-cream/, /julep/ and /swingle-tree/; Halliwell[39] adds /andiron/, /bay-window/, /cesspool/, /clodhopper/, /cross-purposes/, /greenhorn/, /loophole/, /ragamuffin/, /riff-raff/, /rigmarole/ and /trash/; and other authorities cite /stock/ (for cattle), /fall/ (for autumn), /offal/, /din/, /underpinning/ and /adze/.
    Henry L. Mencken  --  The American Language
  • Their leader is Riff: glowing, driving, intelligent, slightly wacky.
    Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim  --  Westside Story
  • Obviously, he was one of those men whom Mammy and Dilcey referred to as "de riff-raff whut Miss Melly pick up off de streets an’ let sleep in her cellar.
    Margaret Mitchell  --  Gone with the Wind
  • I fought against the Riff because I am a European, and I have fought the Communists because they want to take my property from me.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald  --  Tender is the Night
  • Make some crack about Primo de Rivera… …I could ask her what kind of a jam they think they’ve gotten into in the Riff… … Poor, … said Bill…. Very poor.
    Ernest Hemingway  --  The Sun Also Rises
  • It gave Jaime command of the Kingsguard and a seat on the small council, and allowed Riff to throw a bone to his dog.
    George R.R. Martin  --  A Clash of Kings
  • "Riff-raff," said Frederic.
    Orson Scott Card  --  Red Prophet
  • RIFF.
    Alfred Bester  --  The Demolished Man
  • Riff goes at once to A-rab, like a protective father.
    Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim  --  Westside Story
  • We hardly need more riff-raff.
    Orson Scott Card  --  Red Prophet
  • RIFF [such innocence] Why if it isn’t Lieutenant Schrank.
    Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim  --  Westside Story
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Associated words [difficulty]:   riff [4] , blues [1] , blue note [9] , backbeat [9]
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