1. the straight stalk of any of various tall grasses, especially of the genera Phragmites and Arundo, growing in marshy places.
  2. any of the plants themselves.
  3. such stalks or plants collectively.
  4. anything made from such a stalk or from something similar, as an arrow.
  5. Music.
    1. a pastoral or rustic musical pipe made from a reed or from the hollow stalk of some other plant.
    2. a small, flexible piece of cane or metal that, attached to the mouth of any of various wind instruments, is set into vibration by a stream of air and, in turn, sets into vibration the air column enclosed in the tube of the instrument.
    3. reed instrument.
  6. Textiles. the series of parallel strips of wires in a loom that force the weft up to the web and separate the threads of the warp.
  7. an ancient unit of length, equal to 6 cubits. Ezek. 40:5.

verb (used with object)

  1. to decorate with reed.
  2. to thatch with or as if with reed.
  3. to make vertical grooves on (the edge of a coin, medal, etc.).
  1. a broken reed, a person or thing too frail or weak to be relied on for support: Under stress he showed himself to be a broken reed.


  1. Sir Carol,1906–76, British film director.
  2. Ishmael (Scott),born 1938, U.S. novelist and poet.
  3. John,1887–1920, U.S. journalist and poet.
  4. Stanley For·man [fawr-muh n] /ˈfɔr mən/, 1884–1980, U.S. jurist: associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1938–57.
  5. Thomas Brackett,1839–1902, U.S. politician: Speaker of the House 1889–91, 1895–99.
  6. Walter C.,1851–1902, U.S. army surgeon who proved that a type of mosquito transmits the yellow fever virus.
  7. a male given name, form of Read.

verb (used with object), reed, ree·ing. British Dialect.

  1. to sift (grain, peas, beans, etc.).


  1. any of various widely distributed tall grasses of the genus Phragmites, esp P. communis, that grow in swamps and shallow water and have jointed hollow stalks
  2. the stalk, or stalks collectively, of any of these plants, esp as used for thatching
  3. music
    1. a thin piece of cane or metal inserted into the tubes of certain wind instruments, which sets in vibration the air column inside the tube
    2. a wind instrument or organ pipe that sounds by means of a reed
  4. one of the several vertical parallel wires on a loom that may be moved upwards to separate the warp threads
  5. a small semicircular architectural mouldingSee also reeding
  6. an ancient Hebrew unit of length equal to six cubits
  7. an archaic word for arrow
  8. broken reed a weak, unreliable, or ineffectual person

verb (tr)

  1. to fashion into or supply with reeds or reeding
  2. to thatch using reeds


  1. Sir Carol . 1906–76, English film director. His films include The Third Man (1949), An Outcast of the Islands (1951), and Oliver! (1968), for which he won an Oscar
  2. Lou . born 1942, US rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist: member of the Velvet Underground (1965–70). His albums include Transformer (1972), Berlin (1973), Street Hassle (1978), New York (1989), Set the Twilight Reeling (1996), and The Raven (2003)
  3. Walter . 1851–1902, US physician, who proved that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes (1900)

“tall, broad-leafed grass growing in wet places,” Old English hreod “reed, rush,” from Proto-Germanic *kreut- “reed” (cf. Old Saxon hraid, Old Frisian hriad, Middle Dutch ried, Dutch riet, Old High German hriot, German Ried), with no known cognates beyond Germanic.

Meaning “musical pipe made from a reed stem” is from late 14c. (reed-pipe is from c.1300). As part of the mouthpiece of a musical instrument it is attested from 1520s. Meaning “a reed instrument” is from 1838.

  1. American surgeon who led the commission that proved experimentally that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.

  1. American physician and army surgeon who proved in 1900 that yellow fever was transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. His research led to the mosquito eradication programs carried out by William Gorgas that virtually eradicated yellow fever from Havana, Cuba, and from the Panama Canal Zone.

A thin piece of wood or plastic used in many woodwind instruments. It vibrates when the player holds it in the mouth and blows over it (as with a single reed) or through it (as with a double reed). Clarinets and saxophones use a single reed; bassoons and oboes use a double reed.

see broken reed.

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