- a pastoral or rustic musical pipe made from a reed or from the hollow stalk of some other plant.
- a small, flexible piece of cane or metal that, attached to the mouth of any of various wind instruments, is set into vibration by a stream of air and, in turn, sets into vibration the air column enclosed in the tube of the instrument.
- reed instrument.
verb (used with object)
Origin of reed
British Dictionary definitions for broken reed (1 of 2)
- a thin piece of cane or metal inserted into the tubes of certain wind instruments, which sets in vibration the air column inside the tube
- a wind instrument or organ pipe that sounds by means of a reed
Word Origin for reed
British Dictionary definitions for broken reed (2 of 2)
Word Origin and History for broken reed
"tall, broad-leafed grass growing in wet places," Old English hreod "reed, rush," from Proto-Germanic *kreut- "reed" (cf. Old Saxon hraid, Old Frisian hriad, Middle Dutch ried, Dutch riet, Old High German hriot, German Ried), with no known cognates beyond Germanic.
Meaning "musical pipe made from a reed stem" is from late 14c. (reed-pipe is from c.1300). As part of the mouthpiece of a musical instrument it is attested from 1520s. Meaning "a reed instrument" is from 1838.
Medicine definitions for broken reed
Science definitions for broken reed
Culture definitions for broken reed
A thin piece of wood or plastic used in many woodwind instruments. It vibrates when the player holds it in the mouth and blows over it (as with a single reed) or through it (as with a double reed). Clarinets and saxophones use a single reed; bassoons and oboes use a double reed.
Idioms and Phrases with broken reed (1 of 2)
A weak or unreliable support, as in I'd counted on her to help, but she turned out to be a broken reed. The idea behind this idiom, first recorded about 1593, was already present in a mid-15th-century translation of a Latin tract, “Trust not nor lean not upon a windy reed.”
Idioms and Phrases with broken reed (2 of 2)
see broken reed.