a standard quantity of paper, consisting of 20 quires or 500 sheets (formerly 480 sheets), or 516 sheets (printer's ream or perfect ream).
Usually reams. a large quantity: He has written reams of poetry.

Origin of ream

1350–1400; Middle English rem(e) < Middle French reime, rame < Spanish rezma < Arabic rizmah bale



verb (used with object)

to enlarge to desired size (a previously bored hole) by means of a reamer.
to clear with a reamer; remove or press out by reaming.
to extract the juice from: to ream an orange.
  1. to scold or reprimand severely (usually followed by out).
  2. to cheat; defraud.

Origin of ream

First recorded in 1805–15; origin uncertain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ream

Contemporary Examples of ream

Historical Examples of ream

  • "If you're so hungry, help yourself to a ream of fish-wafer," snapped Sayre.

    The Gay Rebellion

    Robert W. Chambers

  • One letter from you would do her more good than a ream of mine.

  • Mary returned to the pony, and Richard to his ream, which he was cutting into sermon-paper.

    Blood Royal

    Grant Allen

  • Perhaps so; but if I have tired you, it is more than you could do by me, were you to fill a ream of paper.

    Dr. Arne and Rule, Britannia

    William Hayman Cummings

  • They give a better picture of the condition of society, than a ream of notes.

    The Colonial Cavalier

    Maud Wilder Goodwin

British Dictionary definitions for ream




a number of sheets of paper, formerly 480 sheets (short ream), now 500 sheets (long ream) or 516 sheets (printer's ream or perfect ream). One ream is equal to 20 quires
(often plural) informal a large quantity, esp of written matterhe wrote reams

Word Origin for ream

C14: from Old French raime, from Spanish rezma, from Arabic rizmah bale



verb (tr)

to enlarge (a hole) by use of a reamer
US to extract (juice) from (a citrus fruit) using a reamer

Word Origin for ream

C19: perhaps from C14 remen to open up, from Old English rӯman to widen
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 ream

measure of paper, mid-14c., from Old French reyme, from Spanish resma, from Arabic rizmah "bundle" (of paper), from rasama "collect into a bundle." The Moors brought manufacture of cotton paper to Spain.

Early variant rym (late 15c.) suggests a Dutch influence (cf. Dutch riem), probably borrowed from Spanish during the time of Hapsburg control of Holland. For ordinary writing paper, 20 quires of 24 sheets each, or 480 sheets; often 500 or more to allow for waste; slightly different numbers for drawing or printing paper.


"to enlarge a hole," 1815, probably a southwest England dialectal survival from Middle English reme "to make room, open up," from Old English ryman "widen, extend, enlarge," from Proto-Germanic *rumijanan (cf. Old Saxon rumian, Old Norse ryma, Old Frisian rema, Old High German rumen "to make room, widen"), from *rumaz "spacious" (see room (n.)). Slang meaning "to cheat, swindle" first recorded 1914; anal sex sense is from 1942. To ream (someone) out "scold, reprimand" is recorded from 1950.


"cream" (obsolete), Old English ream, from Proto-Germanic *raumoz (cf. Middle Dutch and Dutch room, German Rahm), of uncertain origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper