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[reyn] /reɪn/
Often, reins. a leather strap, fastened to each end of the bit of a bridle, by which the rider or driver controls a horse or other animal by pulling so as to exert pressure on the bit.
any of certain other straps or thongs forming part of a harness, as a checkrein.
any means of curbing, controlling, or directing; check; restraint.
reins, the controlling or directing power:
the reins of government.
verb (used with object)
to check or guide (a horse or other animal) by exerting pressure on a bridle bit by means of the reins.
to curb; restrain; control.
verb (used without object)
to obey the reins:
a horse that reins well.
to rein a horse or other animal.
draw rein, to curtail one's speed or progress; halt:
The rider saw the snake and drew rein sharply.
give rein to, to give complete freedom to; indulge freely:
to give rein to one's imagination.
Also, give free rein to, give full rein to.
Origin of rein
1300-50; (noun) Middle English rene, reine, raine < Old French re(s)ne < Vulgar Latin *retina, noun derivative of Latin retinēre to hold back, retain; (v.) Middle English rainen, reinen, derivative of the noun
Related forms
reinless, adjective
unreined, adjective
Can be confused
rain, reign, rein.
6. check, bridle, limit. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for reining
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Why, we should be on his land now," said Mr. Stewart, reining up the horse.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • Lindley was reining in his own steed to keep pace with the white horse.

  • Then, reining about, he wheeled his horse to take the back trail.

    Laramie Holds the Range

    Frank H. Spearman
  • reining in, as he was close to the animals, he fired, and brought one of them down.

    Hendricks the Hunter W.H.G. Kingston
  • reining in his lean horse, he turned in his cart to call to the Sheriff.

    Robin Hood Paul Creswick
British Dictionary definitions for reining


(often pl) one of a pair of long straps, usually connected together and made of leather, used to control a horse, running from the side of the bit or the headstall to the hand of the rider, driver, or trainer
a similar device used to control a very young child
any form or means of control: to take up the reins of government
the direction in which a rider turns (in phrases such as on a left (or right) rein, change the rein)
something that restrains, controls, or guides
give free rein, give a free rein, to allow considerable freedom; remove restraints
keep a tight rein on, to control carefully; limit: we have to keep a tight rein on expenditure
on a long rein, with the reins held loosely so that the horse is relatively unconstrained
shorten the reins, to take up the reins so that the distance between hand and bit is lessened, in order that the horse may be more collected
(transitive) to check, restrain, hold back, or halt with or as if with reins
to control or guide (a horse) with a rein or reins: they reined left
See also rein in
Word Origin
C13: from Old French resne, from Latin retinēre to hold back, from re- + tenēre to hold; see restrain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for reining



c.1300, "strap fastened to a bridle," from Old French rene, resne "reins, bridle strap, laces" (Modern French rêne), probably from Vulgar Latin *retina "a bond, check," back-formation from Latin retinere "hold back" (see retain). To give something free rein is originally of horses.



c.1300, from rein (n.). Figurative extension "put a check on" first recorded 1580s. Related: Reined; reining. To rein up "halt" (1550s) is from the way to make a horse stop by pulling up on the reins.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with reining
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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