plural noun

the kidneys.
the region of the kidneys, or the lower part of the back.
(especially in Biblical use) the seat of the feelings or affections, formerly identified with the kidneys.

Origin of reins

before 1000; Middle English reines, reenes < Old French reins; compare Old English (once) rēnys; both < Latin rēnēs kidneys, loins (plural); cf. renal




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.
any of certain other straps or thongs forming part of a harness, as a checkrein.
any means of curbing, controlling, or directing; check; restraint.
reins, the controlling or directing power: the reins of government.

verb (used with object)

to check or guide (a horse or other animal) by exerting pressure on a bridle bit by means of the reins.
to curb; restrain; control.

verb (used without object)

to obey the reins: a horse that reins well.
to rein a horse or other animal.

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 reins

Contemporary Examples of reins

Historical Examples of reins

  • He could see them buckling on belts while they were riding with the reins in their teeth.

  • He jerked sharply up on the reins, and she broke into a staggering trot.

  • Then he threw the reins down on the backs of his patient horses, and descended.

  • He leaned forward a little, got a fresh grip on the reins and took the whip.

  • Only their master's familiar voice and firm grip on the reins held them there at all.

British Dictionary definitions for reins


pl n

archaic the kidneys or loins

Word Origin for reins

C14: from Old French, from Latin rēnēs the kidneys



(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
a similar device used to control a very young child
any form or means of controlto take up the reins of government
the direction in which a rider turns (in phrases such as on a left (or right) rein, change the rein)
something that restrains, controls, or guides
give free rein or give a free rein to allow considerable freedom; remove restraints
keep a tight rein on to control carefully; limitwe have to keep a tight rein on expenditure
on a long rein with the reins held loosely so that the horse is relatively unconstrained
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


(tr) to check, restrain, hold back, or halt with or as if with reins
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 reins

see rein (n.). Figurative sense "means of controlling; control, check, restraint" is from early 14c.



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

reins in Medicine




The kidneys, loins, or lower back.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with reins


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.