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verb (used with object), ret·ted, ret·ting.
  1. to soak in water or expose to moisture, as flax or hemp, to facilitate the removal of the fiber from the woody tissue by partial rotting.
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Origin of ret

1400–50; late Middle English reten, retten; cognate with Dutch reten (compare Dutch roten, German rössen, Swedish röta); akin to rot
Related formsun·ret·ted, adjective


  1. retain.
  2. retired.
  3. return.
  4. returned.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

permeate, soak, saturate, soften, mash, steep, ret, emaciate

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British Dictionary definitions for ret


verb rets, retting or retted
  1. (tr) to moisten or soak (flax, hemp, jute, etc) to promote bacterial action in order to facilitate separation of the fibres from the woody tissue by beating
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Word Origin

C15: of Germanic origin; related to Middle Dutch reeten, Swedish röta, German rösten; see rot 1
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 ret


"to soak stems of fibrous plants (flax, hemp, jute, etc.) to soften them," mid-15c., probably from Middle Dutch roten (or an unrecorded cognate Old Norse word that is related to Norwegian røyta, Swedish röta, Danish røde); considered to be related to Old English rotian "to rot" (see rot (v.)), but the vowel is difficult.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper