\ˈrēd \

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 \

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 \ adjective

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

Use surface plugs near reeds, points and bait pods. Mark Blythe,, "Central Florida fishing forecast: July 10," 7 July 2018 Roston, a reed-thin woman with features as delicate as her crocheted yarmulke, obtained a license for a gun. Kimberly Winston, Houston Chronicle, "Whitefish Jews fight neo-Nazis with faith, peace and interfaith allies," 12 May 2018 Commoners from ancient times until the middle of the 19th century used more accessible materials for their straws—plant materials with a natural tube shape, such as rye grass, dried reeds or, unsurprisingly, just straw. Emelyn Rude, Time, "The Backlash Against Plastic Straws Is Spreading. Here’s How They Got So Popular in the First Place," 12 July 2018 A year later, plants such as woolgrass bulrush, brome hummock sedge, giant bur-reed, marsh marigold, queen-of-the-prairie and spike gayfeather are attracting dragonflies and monarch butterflies. Patrick M. O'connell,, "A 'wild mile' on the Chicago River? It might be closer than you think," 22 June 2018 Jordanians even claimed that the reed that had grown locally for thousands of years had died out. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "In rediscovered reed flute, a soulful link to Jordanian identity," 13 July 2018 The latter was more than two feet long, had 12 positions and 384 reeds. Denise Coffey, Courant Community, "Harmonica And Strings Make For Unforgettable Concert," 21 June 2018 The trade is in his blood — his father and grandfather before him also cut reed. Peter Dejong, Fox News, "Chinese imports threaten ancient craft of Dutch reed cutters," 2 May 2018 In a garden behind a Baton Rouge office park, Cronin, an LSU ecologist, nodded apologetically at a patch of reeds. Jennifer Larino,, "Army Corps starting levee patrols as Mississippi River rises," 26 Feb. 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

16 Oct 2018

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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 \

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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Comments on reed

What made you want to look up reed? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that holds something together

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