\ ˈrēd How to pronounce reed (audio) \

Definition of reed

 (Entry 1 of 6)

1a : any of various tall grasses with slender often prominently jointed stems that grow especially in wet areas
b : a stem of a reed
c : a person or thing too weak to rely on : one easily swayed or overcome
2 : a growth or mass of reeds specifically : reeds for thatching
3 : arrow
4 : a wind instrument made from the hollow joint of a plant
5 : an ancient Hebrew unit of length equal to six cubits
6a : a thin elastic tongue (as of cane, wood, metal, or plastic) fastened at one end over an air opening in a wind instrument (such as a clarinet, organ pipe, or accordion) and set in vibration by an air current
b : a woodwind instrument that produces sound by the vibrating of a reed against the mouthpiece the reeds of an orchestra
7 : a device on a loom resembling a comb and used to space warp yarns evenly


reeded; reeding; reeds

Definition of reed (Entry 2 of 6)


biographical name (1)
\ ˈrēd How to pronounce Reed (audio) \

Definition of Reed (Entry 3 of 6)

John 1887–1920 American journalist, poet, and Communist


biographical name (2)

Definition of Reed (Entry 4 of 6)

Stanley Forman 1884–1980 American jurist


biographical name (3)

Definition of Reed (Entry 5 of 6)

Thomas Brackett 1839–1902 American politician


biographical name (4)

Definition of Reed (Entry 6 of 6)

Walter 1851–1902 American army surgeon

Illustration of reed

Illustration of reed


reed 6a

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from reed


reedlike \ ˈrēd-​ˌlīk How to pronounce reedlike (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for reed

Synonyms: Noun

doormat, jellyfish, namby-pamby, pushover, weakling, wimp

Antonyms: Noun


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Examples of reed in a Sentence


the reeds along the edge of a pond the reed section of the orchestra

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The cartoon refers to the image of Oscar Alberto Martínez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, lying face down in water surrounded by reeds. Shannon Liao, CNN, "Canadian cartoonist loses job after illustration of Trump went viral," 30 June 2019 So, Veltman conceived an open-air structure that ingeniously comprised all of the above, tucked into one open-air space—topped with a dramatic roof by master thatcher Colin McGhee, who spent six weeks creating it with reeds imported from Turkey. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "A Delightfully Unique Poolhouse Designed for Hot Summers," 28 June 2019 But the music, played by an eight-person ensemble anchored by keyboards, guitar and drums and getting nautical accents from a trombone and reeds, begins to sound like wave after heavy wave crashing amidships. Nelson Pressley, Washington Post, "The new musical ‘Blackbeard’ swashbuckles into rough waters," 27 June 2019 Ahead of joining The Queen and Members of @TheRoyalFamily at the #ChelseaFlowerShow on Monday evening, The Duchess was joined by local schoolchildren for some outdoor activities, including reed boat baking and marshmallow toasting. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton's Culottes Create the Perfect Pre-Summer Look," 20 May 2019 Giethoorn, Netherlands The marshes surrounding Giethoorn were once important sources for harvesting peat moss and reeds, and its canal system was originally used to transport local farmers and their crops across town. Caitlin Etherton, National Geographic, "Venice is flooded with tourists—visit these floating cities instead," 16 May 2019 For the rest of the year, the only sign of life is the odd patch of bright green reeds, fed by underground water. Mary Holland, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Your Next Safari Should Be in Namibia," 6 Nov. 2018 Slatted wood screens and reed walls are other good options Alexander loves. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, "What You Should Know Before Installing an Outdoor Shower," 11 Apr. 2019 Malnourished mothers cradling gaunt infants in reed-thin arms. Distressing scenes of hopeless poverty in Haiti, across the Caribbean, and in Latin America. Brian Macquarrie,, "Leading hunger relief charity challenged on its claim of low costs," 2 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Heat could offer Reed its $4.3 mid-level room exception. Manny Navarro, miamiherald, "Willie Reed tells Heat he’s opting out, testing free agency," 1 June 2017 SOMEWHERE ON the coastal road between the Sicilian towns of Marzamemi and Siracusa, from behind the wheel, our guide pointed out the giant reeds growing above the Ionian sea. Charlotte Druckman, WSJ, "Sicily’s Superior Cannoli: A Guide for Connoisseurs—and Skeptics," 28 Jan. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reed.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of reed


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1951, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for reed


Middle English rede, from Old English hrēod; akin to Old High German hriot reed

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Statistics for reed

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for reed

The first known use of reed was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for reed



English Language Learners Definition of reed

: a tall, thin grass that grows in wet areas
: a thin strip of wood, metal, or plastic inside some musical instruments (such as clarinets and oboes) that makes a sound when you blow over it
: a musical instrument that has a reed


\ ˈrēd How to pronounce reed (audio) \

Kids Definition of reed

1 : a tall slender grass that grows in wet areas
2 : a stem or a growth or mass of reeds
3 : a thin flexible piece of cane, plastic, or metal fastened to the mouthpiece of an instrument (as a clarinet) or over an air opening in an instrument (as an accordion) and made to vibrate by an air current

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More from Merriam-Webster on reed

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with reed

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for reed

Spanish Central: Translation of reed

Nglish: Translation of reed for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reed for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about reed

Comments on reed

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food or victuals

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