verb (used with object)

  1. to get to or get as far as in moving, going, traveling, etc.: The boat reached the shore.
  2. to come to or arrive at in some course of progress, action, etc.: Your letter never reached me.
  3. to succeed in touching or seizing with an outstretched hand, a pole, etc.: to reach a book on a high shelf.
  4. to stretch or hold out; extend: reaching out a hand in greeting.
  5. to stretch or extend so as to touch or meet: The bookcase reaches the ceiling.
  6. to establish communication with: I called but couldn’t reach you.
  7. to amount to, as in the sum or total: The cost will reach millions.
  8. to penetrate to: distant stars the eye cannot reach.
  9. to succeed in striking or hitting, as with a weapon or missile: The artillery fire reached the shore.
  10. to succeed in making contact with, influencing, impressing, interesting, convincing, etc.: a program that reached a large teenage audience.

verb (used without object)

  1. to make a stretch, as with the hand or arm.
  2. to become outstretched, as the hand or arm.
  3. to make a movement or effort as if to touch or seize something: to reach for a weapon.
  4. to extend in operation or effect: power that reaches throughout the land.
  5. to stretch in space; extend in direction, length, distance, etc.: a coat reaching to the knee; a tower reaching to the skies.
  6. to extend or continue in time.
  7. to get or come to a specified place, person, condition, etc. (often followed by to).
  8. to amount (often followed by to): sums reaching to a considerable total.
  9. to penetrate: Fields of flowers extended as far as the eye could reach.
  10. to assert or agree without certainty or sufficient evidence; infer hastily: I’d be reaching if I said I had the answer to your question.
  11. Nautical.
    1. to sail on a reach.
    2. to sail with the wind forward of the beam but so as not to require sailing close-hauled.


  1. an act or instance of reaching: to make a reach for a gun.
  2. the extent or distance of reaching: within reach of his voice.
  3. range of effective action, power, or capacity.
  4. a continuous stretch or extent of something: a reach of woodland.
  5. Also called pound. a level portion of a canal, between locks.
  6. Nautical. a point of sailing in which the wind is within a few points of the beam, either forward of the beam (close reach), directly abeam (beam reach), or abaft the beam (broad reach).
  7. the pole connecting the rear axle of a wagon to the transverse bar or bolster over the front axle supporting the wagon bed.
  8. a straight portion of a river between two bends.


  1. (tr) to arrive at or get to (a place, person, etc) in the course of movement or actionto reach the office
  2. to extend as far as (a point or place)to reach the ceiling; can you reach?
  3. (tr) to come to (a certain condition, stage, or situation)to reach the point of starvation
  4. (intr) to extend in influence or operationthe Roman conquest reached throughout England
  5. (tr) informal to pass or give (something to a person) with the outstretched handto reach someone a book
  6. (intr ; foll by out, for, or after) to make a movement (towards), as if to grasp or touchto reach for something on a shelf
  7. (intr ; foll by for or after) to strive or yearnto reach for the impossible
  8. (tr) to make contact or communication with (someone)we tried to reach him all day
  9. (tr) to strike, esp in fencing or boxing
  10. (tr) to amount to (a certain sum)to reach the five million mark
  11. (intr) nautical to sail on a tack with the wind on or near abeam


  1. the act of reaching
  2. the extent or distance of reachingwithin reach of safety; beyond her reach
  3. the range of influence, power, jurisdiction, etc
  4. an open stretch of water, esp on a river
  5. nautical the direction or distance sailed by a vessel on one tack
  6. a bar on the rear axle of a vehicle connecting it with some part at the front end
  7. television radio the percentage of the population selecting a broadcast programme or channel for more than a specified time during a day or week
  8. marketing the proportion of a market that an advertiser hopes to reach at least once in a campaign

Old English ræcan, reccan “reach out, stretch out, extend, hold forth,” also “succeed in touching, succeed in striking; address, speak to,” also “offer, present, give, grant,” from West Germanic *raikjan “stretch out the hand” (cf. Old Frisian reka, Middle Dutch reiken, Dutch reiken, Old High German and German reichen), from Proto-Germanic *raikijanau, perhaps from PIE root *reig- “to stretch out” (cf. Sanskrit rjyati “he stretches himself,” riag “torture” (by racking); Greek oregein “to reach, extend;” Lithuanian raižius “to stretch oneself;” Old Irish rigim “I stretch”).

Shakespeare uses the now-obsolete past tense form raught (Old English ræhte). Meaning “arrive at” is early 14c.; that of “succeed in influencing” is from 1660s. Related: Reached; reaching. Reach-me-down “ready-made” (of clothes) is recorded from 1862, from notion of being on the rack in a finished state.


1520s, from reach (v.); earliest use is of stretches of water. Meaning “extent of reaching” is from 1540s; that of “act of reaching” is from 1560s.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

[Browning, “Andrea del Sarto”]

In addition to the idiom beginning with reach

  • reach for the sky

also see:

  • boardinghouse reach
  • get to (reach) first base
  • in reach

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