give free rein to


  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.


  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

c.1300, “strap fastened to a bridle,” from Old French rene, resne “reins, bridle strap, laces” (Modern French rĂȘne), 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.

see under free hand.

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

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