a fencelike barrier composed of one or more horizontal rails supported by widely spaced uprights; balustrade.
rails collectively.

Origin of railing

First recorded in 1350–1400; rail1 + -ing1




a bar of wood or metal fixed horizontally for any of various purposes, as for a support, barrier, fence, or railing.
a fence; railing.
one of two fences marking the inside and outside boundaries of a racetrack.
one of a pair of steel bars that provide the running surfaces for the wheels of locomotives and railroad cars.
the railroad as a means of transportation: to travel by rail.
rails, stocks or bonds of railroad companies.
Nautical. a horizontal member capping a bulwark.
Carpentry, Furniture. any of various horizontal members framing panels or the like, as in a system of paneling, paneled door, window sash, or chest of drawers.Compare stile2.
Slang. a line of cocaine crystals or powder for inhaling through the nose.

verb (used with object)

to furnish or enclose with a rail or rails.

Origin of rail

1250–1300; Middle English raile < Old French raille bar, beam < Latin rēgula bar, straight piece of wood, regula
Related formsrail·less, adjectiverail·like, adjective



verb (used without object)

to utter bitter complaint or vehement denunciation (often followed by at or against): to rail at fate.

verb (used with object)

to bring, force, etc., by railing.

Origin of rail

1425–75; late Middle English railen < Middle French railler to deride < Provençal ralhar to chatter < Vulgar Latin *ragulāre, derivative of Late Latin ragere to bray
Related formsrail·er, nounrail·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for rail

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for railing

fence, barrier, rail, siding, pole, banister, bar, rest, balustrade, paling

Examples from the Web for railing

Contemporary Examples of railing

Historical Examples of railing

  • He fell back a pace to the railing, his features working with his deep chagrin.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • The Baron had a key, with which he locked the railing behind them.

  • Suddenly some of the pigeons flew down on the railing of the flower-garden.

  • He went out again to the balcony, leaned on the railing and looked over.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • Everybody is abusing him now, and railing at him and insulting him.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for railing



(often plural) a fence, balustrade, or barrier that consists of rails supported by posts
rails collectively or material for making rails




a horizontal bar of wood, metal, etc, supported by vertical posts, functioning as a fence, barrier, handrail, etc
a horizontal bar fixed to a wall on which to hang thingsa picture rail
a horizontal framing member in a door or piece of panellingCompare stile 2
short for railing
one of a pair of parallel bars laid on a prepared track, roadway, etc, that serve as a guide and running surface for the wheels of a railway train, tramcar, etc
  1. short for railway
  2. (as modifier)rail transport
nautical a trim for finishing the top of a bulwark
off the rails
  1. into or in a state of dysfunction or disorder
  2. eccentric or mad

verb (tr)

to provide with a rail or railings
(usually foll by in or off) to fence (an area) with rails
Derived Formsrailless, adjective

Word Origin for rail

C13: from Old French raille rod, from Latin rēgula ruler, straight piece of wood




(intr ; foll by at or against) to complain bitterly or vehementlyto rail against fate
Derived Formsrailer, noun

Word Origin for rail

C15: from Old French railler to mock, from Old Provençal ralhar to chatter, joke, from Late Latin ragere to yell, neigh




any of various small wading birds of the genus Rallus and related genera: family Rallidae, order Gruiformes (cranes, etc). They have short wings, long legs, and dark plumage

Word Origin for rail

C15: from Old French raale, perhaps from Latin rādere to scrape
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

Word Origin and History for railing

"construction in which rails form an important part," early 15c., verbal noun from rail (v.2). Technically, railings (late 15c.) are horizontal, palings are vertical.



"horizontal bar passing from one post or support to another," c.1300, from Old French reille "bolt, bar," from Vulgar Latin *regla, from Latin regula "straight stick," diminutive form related to regere "to straighten, guide" (see regal). Used figuratively for thinness from 1872. To be off the rails in a figurative sense is from 1848, an image from the railroads. In U.S. use, "A piece of timber, cleft, hewed, or sawed, inserted in upright posts for fencing" [Webster, 1830].



"small wading bird," mid-15c., from Old French raale (13c.), related to râler "to rattle," of unknown origin, perhaps imitative of its cry.



"complain," mid-15c., from Middle French railler "to tease or joke" (15c.), perhaps from Old Provençal ralhar "scoff, to chat, to joke," from Vulgar Latin *ragulare "to bray" (cf. Italian ragghiare "to bray"), from Late Latin ragere "to roar," probably of imitative origin. See rally (v.2). Related: Railed; railing.



"fence in with rails," late 14c., from rail (n.1). Related: Railed; railing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with railing


see off the rails; thin as a rail; third rail.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.