Stephanie wrote, “I’m
having trouble distinguishing between two similar words. Should I write, the
economy is ripe with
problems, or the economy is rife with problems”?
While the two words are very
close in appearance, they have different meanings. Ripe means fully grown and
developed; think of succulent fruit. Since the economy is not at the end of its
development, that word doesn’t fit.
Rife means abundant or
common; substitute filled with,
and it will be clear. Thus, the economy is rife with problems would be the correct choice. The word comes from
a nexus of Frisian/Dutch/Germanic/Scandinavian terms that meant copious or
Keeping our examples in
the realm of economics, these would both be proper:
- Wall Street seems to be rife with initial
public offerings this season.
- According to my sources, the Tekco initial
public offering is ripe for plucking.
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