\ 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

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of reed in a Sentence

Noun the reeds along the edge of a pond the reed section of the orchestra
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Each of Homesick's beloved candles is made from a natural soy wax blend and 100% organic cotton wicks that produce a clean burn (the brand also sells its scents in reed-diffuser form as well as in aromatherapy fragrance oils). Karina Hoshikawa,, "Homesick’s Nostalgic Candles Are On Sale (BRB, While We Stock Up For Fall)," 4 Sep. 2020 Typically, the straw would have been crafted from a hollow reed or, for the fancier set, bronze or gold. Tate Paulette, The Conversation, "Brewing Mesopotamian beer brings a sip of this vibrant ancient drinking culture back to life," 24 Aug. 2020 In 2015, about two million visitors enjoyed the chinampas, or floating islands, which the Aztecs built using reed mats covered by dirt and then planting trees so the roots would keep them in place in the shallow waters. Rachel Chang, Travel + Leisure, "Mexico City’s Floating Gardens of Xochimilco Reopen to Tourists," 24 Aug. 2020 Bring back the reed and the reef, set the ice sheet back on its frozen plinth, tuck the restless watercourse into its bed, sit the glacier down on its highland throne, put the snow cap back on the mountain peak. Simon Armitage, Scientific American, "Poem: Bring Back the Leaf," 18 Aug. 2020 Based on microscopic plant remains found among the ashes, the pyre may have used reed grasses along with wood as fuel or as a platform for the dead. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "This 9,000-year-old skeleton is the oldest cremation in the Near East," 17 Aug. 2020 On Irving Street in the Sunset, Taco Shop at Underdogs bought blue storage barrels and then wrapped reed mats around them. John King,, "Restaurants are taking over parking spaces. Here are 6 ways to make them look better," 3 Aug. 2020 Invasive species like the common reed, which was introduced from Europe for erosion control, began to clog river channels and overtake habitat for native species. Lindsay Fendt, Smithsonian Magazine, "How COVID-19 Is Disrupting Crucial Conservation Efforts," 18 May 2020 Having a reed break in the middle of a session is a buzzkill. Parker Hall, Wired, "The Best Gear to Learn Music Like a Pro," 21 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Instead, the Romans’ post-bath ritual involved anointing the body with oils and scraping excess grease away with a metal or reed tool known as a strigil. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Archaeologists Find 1,200-Year-Old Soap Factory in Israel," 20 Aug. 2020 The key to blowing a short-reed Canada or specklebelly call is moving a continuous amount of air through the call. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "How to Hunt Ducks and Geese," 26 June 2020 According to Water at Largo's Coronet Theater in Los Angeles with pianist Patrick Warren, bassist David Piltch, reeds player Levon Henry, background vocalists JT Nero and Allison Russell from Birds of Chicago and drummer Jay Bellerose. Dan Ouellette, Billboard, "Joe Henry Shares a Romantic 'Gospel' In the Wake of Cancer Diagnosis," 6 Nov. 2019 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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Time Traveler for reed

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Reed.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for reed


How to pronounce Reed (audio)

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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