Rift sounds like rip, and it's helpful to think of it that way. When there is a rift in a political party over a particular policy, it is like a rip or tear in the fabric of the group.

Rift has a slightly different sense than break. A group can have a rift without having fully broken apart. A rift can heal, though a break is permanent. A rift can arise between sisters over whose turn it is to do dishes; it can quickly heal when parents promise an ice cream trip when the dishes are done. The Earth's crust has rifts, where it's splitting apart, like in East Africa.

Definitions of rift

n a narrow fissure in rock

Type of:
cleft, crack, crevice, fissure, scissure
a long narrow opening

n a gap between cloud masses

“the sun shone through a rift in the clouds”
Type of:
gap, opening
an open or empty space in or between things

n a personal or social separation (as between opposing factions)

breach, break, falling out, rupture, severance
Great Schism
the period from 1378 to 1417 during which there were two papacies in the Roman Catholic Church, one in Rome and one in Avignon
the formal separation of a church into two churches or the withdrawal of one group over doctrinal differences
Type of:
breakup, detachment, separation
coming apart

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