Definition of reed in English:



  • 1A tall, slender-leaved plant of the grass family, which grows in water or on marshy ground.

    • ‘Sometimes, the nests are also built on the ground among reeds.’
    • ‘The foothills themselves were coated in long, green grass with reeds growing at the riverbanks.’
    • ‘Bending down gracefully, she snapped a thick reed from the ground, and tied it around her mass of curly hair.’
    • ‘It was filled with low bushes, dead grass, reeds, and shallow black water.’
    • ‘He was especially drawn to the movement of taller plants, reeds and grasses.’
    • ‘They were sitting together beside a pool of water, surrounded by reeds and trailing plants.’
    • ‘Water lilies, reeds and sometimes, on hot days and nights, mists articulate the change between the heavily trafficked street and the park.’
    • ‘Edible reeds, rushes and grasses can be incorporated into both shallow and deep ponds, providing additional food for humans and wildlife.’
    • ‘The initial housing is usually made out of light reed matting.’
    • ‘There are also several contributions on the sulphur-analog selenium, and on non-crop plant species, such as the common reed, algae and mosses.’
    • ‘Avoid docking or beaching where plants such as reeds, grasses and mangroves are located.’
    • ‘Aquatic plants come in many forms, from relatively simple multi-cellular algae to reeds and water lilies.’
    • ‘Because we had long lengths of wide ditches where tall reeds grew in proliferation, we used to cut them using long-polled scythes and tie the stems into bundles.’
    • ‘The common reed is a tall perennial grass found in marshes and along river and lake edges.’
    • ‘Suddenly there was a loud hissing sound and thrashing of water from behind the reeds.’
    • ‘They were meant to imitate reed matting on the walls.’
    • ‘I lay there a long time amongst the grasses and reeds, struggling to keep my head above the water, and trying not to be seen as the enemy searched for me.’
    • ‘Two identical white reed Victorian garden chairs with high round arching backs stood ready.’
    • ‘Wisteria, weeping willows and reeds are mirrored in the calm of the pond.’
    • ‘We canoed across the lake, through the water reeds which the Finns make into small pipes.’
    • ‘After numerous trips and hours of staring at the water and surrounding reeds, I still had not seen the kingfisher.’
    • ‘The soft pad of papyrus reed sandals made me turn around.’
    • ‘I even noticed a juvenile white-crowned sparrow in the reeds along the water, newly arrived on its wintering grounds.’
    • ‘Look again for flooded areas, especially where long grasses and reeds lie over the water's surface.’
    1. 1.1Used in names of plants similar to the reed and growing in wet habitats, e.g. bur-reed.
    2. 1.2A tall straight stalk of a reed plant, used especially as a material in making thatch or household items.
      ‘a harvest of thatching reeds’
      [mass noun], [as modifier] ‘a reed curtain’
      • ‘Walls are made by the owners weaving together local reeds and leaves, which can easily be replaced if swept away.’
      • ‘A second, smaller robe, also with tassels, is carried rolled up in a reed scroll called a ‘suitcase’ in English.’
      • ‘Later, the indentations were made with a reed stylus.’
      • ‘He looked like a commoner, with reed sandals and a plain, pleated kilt wrapped around his waist.’
      • ‘South walls are formed of large sliding floor-to-ceiling windows with, outside them, folding panels of local reeds in aluminium frames.’
      • ‘Here we've got some reeds as well, which are mainly used for thatching the roofs.’
      • ‘From the riverbanks reeds are harvested for hut building and thatching.’
      • ‘Several big rolls of reed matting, which must be building materials, are propped up against the walls of the central structure.’
      • ‘Traditional Tutsi houses were huts of wood, reeds, and straw shaped like beehives.’
      • ‘A single candle and a carefully assembled bundle of flowers and reeds, held together by a violet snow globe, made up the centerpiece.’
      • ‘Using a reed pen and some ink I quickly got the hang of it.’
      • ‘Traditional Hutu houses are huts made from wood, reeds, and straw and are shaped like beehives.’
      • ‘To portray the harsher reality produced by the war, Beckmann switched from the soft pencil he had previously used to a reed pen, giving him a harder, more precise line.’
      • ‘In the north, walls are made of millet stalks or reeds, and roofs are typically corrugated tin.’
      • ‘He followed Alia to where she had deposited the pile pf poles, curtains, blanket, quilt, and the reed pad.’
      • ‘Traditional huts were made from reeds and canes.’
      • ‘The Ma'dan live in houses built of reeds, with reed mats for floors.’
      • ‘On the far side, lit by flickering reed torches, we were confronted by a large and completely silent crowd.’
      • ‘Thatch would have been gathered from reeds and rushes on the shore and used for the roof of the main castle.’
      • ‘Another yellow robe was hanging from the curtain string, and on the bed was a reed mat.’
      stem, shoot, trunk, stock, cane, bine, bent, haulm, straw, reed
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3British [mass noun]Straw used for thatching.
      • ‘People making a living off the fens catching eels and harvesting marsh reed for thatching were a tad upset and started a guerilla war against the engineers who were building the drains.’
      • ‘The facade is of Corrib stone and the roof is thatched with Turkish reed to a minimum depth of 14 inches - the thatching has a lifetime of more than 15 years.’
      • ‘Nigerians build simple rectangular or cylindrical houses of reed, mud brick, or cinder block.’
      • ‘Just after the war I learned to thatch corn stacks using reeds with long stems.’
      • ‘This would give a warm, dry and snug shelter for the pigs or poultry which some people would thatch using reeds or perhaps ling (heather).’
      • ‘These reeds which are about 3, 4 metres high some of them are used for thatching the roofs.’
      • ‘I believe I have mentioned before that we thatched the stacks with reeds cut from the ditches using a long pole scythe.’
    4. 1.4literary A rustic musical pipe made from a reed or from straw.
      ‘as if thy waves had only heard the shepherd's reed’
      • ‘A single, consistent bar on a hollow reed, just musical enough to be considered a note.’
  • 2A thing or person resembling or likened to a reed, in particular.

    • ‘You are weak reeds, cast aside in a search for something useful.’
    • ‘A lot of things I don't agree with, but I'm a grass reed, I go with it.’
    • ‘On the basis of this thin reed Stevens was willing to impose on protestors acting out of profound religious convictions the same draconian punishments that are ordinarily imposed on gangsters.’
    • ‘On that slim reed of hope that an agreement might still be reached, the talks adjourned at 6 a.m.’
    1. 2.1A weak or impressionable person.
      ‘the jurors were mere reeds in the wind’
      • ‘He obviously cannot control his own people and became a weak reed in the process.’
    2. 2.2literary An arrow.
      ‘a bright reed of energy pierced the starship bridge’
      arrow, quarrel, dart, shaft, missile, projectile
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3A set of semi-cylindrical adjacent mouldings like reeds laid together.
      • ‘In order to give the stucco a hold on a wooden wall or ceiling reeds are nailed to the surface beforehand, providing a ‘key’.’
      • ‘One easily accounts for the 3 small sinkings on the Doric capital: they represented the strings that tied the original bundled reeds together to make them strong to bear great weight.’
  • 3A piece of thin cane or metal, sometimes doubled, which vibrates in a current of air to produce the sound of various musical instruments, as in the mouthpiece of a clarinet or oboe or at the base of some organ pipes.

    [as modifier] ‘a reed instrument’
    • ‘Possibly a distant ancestor of the modern bassoon, the instrument had a space at one end which almost certainly held a reed which generated the sound.’
    • ‘She hoped no one noticed her bright cheeks as she attached the reed to her mouth piece.’
    • ‘Coren was sucking on a saxophone reed, listening to them talk.’
    • ‘Feeling melancholy, he fashioned the cut reeds into the musical instrument that bears his name - the pan-pipe.’
    • ‘One teenager checks the reed of his clarinet and practises phrasing.’
    • ‘If it has a mouthpiece or a reed, Al can produce sublime music on it, often switching effortlessly between trumpet, saxophone and clarinet on the same gig.’
    • ‘One refreshing shower of raindrops between rehearsal and concert and the oboe reed's hardness and pitch-stability may well be altered.’
    • ‘The finished bassoon reed can last for several weeks if not months.’
    • ‘The physical process of making sound with a reed is clearly not the same as it is for a transverse flute.’
    • ‘She had just attached the reed to the mouth piece when she realized, ‘Oh my gosh!’’
    • ‘She finished assembling Roxanne and fastened the reed to the mouthpiece.’
    • ‘Here I must admit that for bassoon reeds, a decade or so of advanced macramé at night school is a sound investment.’
    • ‘In the harmonium the action of the bellows blows air past the reeds.’
    • ‘I speak from experience when I say that a mouldy reed has neither the taste nor the sound of a clean reed.’
    • ‘Digital processing morphs the clarinet's mournful tones into deep sinewave swoops, zooms in on the crackle of spit on the reed or squeezes out didgeridoo-like overtones.’
    • ‘Initially this was not possible: his Symphonium of 1829 required lung power to supply the air to its metal reeds, with the player using keys to select the desired note.’
    • ‘Of course, no oboe reeds were available locally, so I bought the oboe without having any idea whether or not it could play.’
    • ‘Wind instruments are tuned by adjustment to the length of tubing, using the tuning-slide on a brass instrument, the staple of the reed on an oboe, or the movable top joint of a flute, etc.’
    • ‘It employs a single reed and has a very pure tone with no vibrato although this can be induced by use of the bellows.’
    • ‘The khaen is a collection of bamboo pipes of different lengths, each with a small hole for fingering and a metal reed, preferably of silver, all attached to a mouthpiece.’
    1. 3.1A wind instrument played with a reed.
      • ‘For the next few days I worked on packing up snare drums, clarinets, reeds and so many other things.’
      • ‘The combination of percussion and reeds, and the frenzied pace of some of the pieces, creates some uncanny parallels with Moroccan trance music.’
      • ‘Al is a rare multi-instrumentalist, able to alternate on reeds and trumpet with equal artistry over an evening.’
      • ‘In Saracenic armies, bands composed of reeds and pipes of various sorts played during combat to encourage their own troops and to show that the line remained unbroken.’
      • ‘The Beast isn't even an electronic record as such, as Michel records himself on guitar, drums, melodica, horns, reeds, keys, the list goes on.’
      • ‘Youssou N'Dour worked with Fathy Salama, who arranged and conducted his orchestral group of violins, reeds, flutes, and percussion.’
    2. 3.2An organ stop with reed pipes.
  • 4An electrical contact used in a magnetically operated switch or relay.

    ‘the permanent magnet closes the reeds and contacts together’
    [as modifier] ‘a reed relay’
    • ‘By bouncing, the reed breaks an electrical circuit.’
  • 5A weaver's comb-like implement (originally made from reed or cane) for separating the threads of the warp and correctly positioning the weft.


Old English hrēod, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch riet and German Ried.