1. 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.
  2. any of certain other straps or thongs forming part of a harness, as a checkrein.
  3. any means of curbing, controlling, or directing; check; restraint.
  4. reins, the controlling or directing power: the reins of government.
verb (used with object)
  1. to check or guide (a horse or other animal) by exerting pressure on a bridle bit by means of the reins.
  2. to curb; restrain; control.
verb (used without object)
  1. to obey the reins: a horse that reins well.
  2. to rein a horse or other animal.
  1. draw rein, to curtail one's speed or progress; halt: The rider saw the snake and drew rein sharply.
  2. 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 formsrein·less, adjectiveun·reined, adjective
Can be confusedrain reign rein

Synonyms for rein Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for reining

Contemporary Examples of reining

Historical Examples of reining

  • "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


  1. (often plural) 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
  2. a similar device used to control a very young child
  3. any form or means of controlto take up the reins of government
  4. the direction in which a rider turns (in phrases such as on a left (or right) rein, change the rein)
  5. something that restrains, controls, or guides
  6. give free rein or give a free rein to allow considerable freedom; remove restraints
  7. keep a tight rein on to control carefully; limitwe have to keep a tight rein on expenditure
  8. on a long rein with the reins held loosely so that the horse is relatively unconstrained
  9. 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
  1. (tr) to check, restrain, hold back, or halt with or as if with reins
  2. to control or guide (a horse) with a rein or reinsthey reined left
See also rein in

Word Origin for rein

C13: from Old French resne, from Latin retinēre to hold back, from re- + tenēre to hold; see restrain


See reign
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 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

Idioms and Phrases with reining


see draw in the reins; free hand (rein) tight rein on.

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