[ reed ]
See synonyms for reed on
  1. the straight stalk of any of various tall grasses, especially of the genera Phragmites and Arundo, growing in marshy places.

  2. any of the plants themselves.

  1. such stalks or plants collectively.

  2. anything made from such a stalk or from something similar, as an arrow.

  3. Music.

    • 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.

  4. Textiles. the series of parallel strips of wires in a loom that force the weft up to the web and separate the threads of the warp.

  5. an ancient unit of length, equal to 6 cubits. Ezekiel 40:5.

verb (used with object)
  1. to decorate with reed.

  2. to thatch with or as if with reed.

  1. to make vertical grooves on (the edge of a coin, medal, etc.).

Idioms about reed

  1. a broken reed, a person or thing too frail or weak to be relied on for support: Under stress he showed himself to be a broken reed.

Origin of reed

First recorded before 900; Middle English reed, red, reod; Old English hrēod, hrēad; cognate with German Ried, Dutch riet

Other words from reed

  • reed·like, adjective

Words Nearby reed

Other definitions for Reed (2 of 2)

[ reed ]

  1. Sir Carol, 1906–76, British film director.

  2. Ishmael (Scott), born 1938, U.S. novelist and poet.

  1. John, 1887–1920, U.S. journalist and poet.

  2. Stanley For·man [fawr-muhn], /ˈfɔr mən/, 1884–1980, U.S. jurist: associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1938–57.

  3. Thomas Brackett, 1839–1902, U.S. politician: Speaker of the House 1889–91, 1895–99.

  4. Walter C., 1851–1902, U.S. army surgeon who proved that a type of mosquito transmits the yellow fever virus.

  5. a male given name, form of Read. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use reed in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for reed (1 of 2)


/ (riːd) /

  1. any of various widely distributed tall grasses of the genus Phragmites, esp P. communis, that grow in swamps and shallow water and have jointed hollow stalks

  2. the stalk, or stalks collectively, of any of these plants, esp as used for thatching

  1. music

    • 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

  2. one of the several vertical parallel wires on a loom that may be moved upwards to separate the warp threads

  3. a small semicircular architectural moulding: See also reeding

  4. an ancient Hebrew unit of length equal to six cubits

  5. an archaic word for arrow

  6. broken reed a weak, unreliable, or ineffectual person

  1. to fashion into or supply with reeds or reeding

  2. to thatch using reeds

Origin of reed

Old English hreod; related to Old Saxon hriod, Old High German hriot

British Dictionary definitions for Reed (2 of 2)


/ (riːd) /

  1. Sir Carol . 1906–76, English film director. His films include The Third Man (1949), An Outcast of the Islands (1951), and Oliver! (1968), for which he won an Oscar

  2. Lou . born 1942, US rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist: member of the Velvet Underground (1965–70). His albums include Transformer (1972), Berlin (1973), Street Hassle (1978), New York (1989), Set the Twilight Reeling (1996), and The Raven (2003)

  1. Walter . 1851–1902, US physician, who proved that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes (1900)

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

Scientific definitions for Reed


[ rēd ]

  1. American physician and army surgeon who proved in 1900 that yellow fever was transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. His research led to the mosquito eradication programs carried out by William Gorgas that virtually eradicated yellow fever from Havana, Cuba, and from the Panama Canal Zone.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for 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.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with reed


see broken reed.

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