1. a standard quantity of paper, consisting of 20 quires or 500 sheets (formerly 480 sheets), or 516 sheets (printer’s ream or perfect ream).
  2. Usually reams. a large quantity: He has written reams of poetry.

verb (used with object)

  1. to enlarge to desired size (a previously bored hole) by means of a reamer.
  2. to clear with a reamer; remove or press out by reaming.
  3. to extract the juice from: to ream an orange.
  4. Slang.
    1. to scold or reprimand severely (usually followed by out).
    2. to cheat; defraud.


  1. a number of sheets of paper, formerly 480 sheets (short ream), now 500 sheets (long ream) or 516 sheets (printer’s ream or perfect ream). One ream is equal to 20 quires
  2. (often plural) informal a large quantity, esp of written matterhe wrote reams

verb (tr)

  1. to enlarge (a hole) by use of a reamer
  2. US to extract (juice) from (a citrus fruit) using a reamer

measure of paper, mid-14c., from Old French reyme, from Spanish resma, from Arabic rizmah “bundle” (of paper), from rasama “collect into a bundle.” The Moors brought manufacture of cotton paper to Spain.

Early variant rym (late 15c.) suggests a Dutch influence (cf. Dutch riem), probably borrowed from Spanish during the time of Hapsburg control of Holland. For ordinary writing paper, 20 quires of 24 sheets each, or 480 sheets; often 500 or more to allow for waste; slightly different numbers for drawing or printing paper.


“to enlarge a hole,” 1815, probably a southwest England dialectal survival from Middle English reme “to make room, open up,” from Old English ryman “widen, extend, enlarge,” from Proto-Germanic *rumijanan (cf. Old Saxon rumian, Old Norse ryma, Old Frisian rema, Old High German rumen “to make room, widen”), from *rumaz “spacious” (see room (n.)). Slang meaning “to cheat, swindle” first recorded 1914; anal sex sense is from 1942. To ream (someone) out “scold, reprimand” is recorded from 1950.


“cream” (obsolete), Old English ream, from Proto-Germanic *raumoz (cf. Middle Dutch and Dutch room, German Rahm), of uncertain origin.

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