Definition of rein in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /reɪn/


(usually reins)
1A long, narrow strap attached at one end to a horse’s bit, typically used in pairs to guide or check a horse in riding or driving.
Example sentences
  • Spotting them, she quickly grabbed the reins and led the horses back at a trot.
  • She soon took the reins again and guided the horse back to the stables.
  • He reached around me, grasping the horse's reins, and spurred the creature into a gallop.
1.1British A pair of straps used to restrain a young child: some of the children wore leather baby reins
More example sentences
  • We offer fully adjustable baby harnesses & baby and child reins to keep kids safe when walking outside.
  • Baby reins are designed to keep your toddler safe when walking out and about
1.2The power to direct and control: a new chairperson will soon take over the reins
More example sentences
  • She also shows that Irish women are lagging way behind their EU counterparts in taking the reins of power when it comes to running the country.
  • But when the celebrations die down, and when the euphoria subsides, do not forget for one moment who handed you back the reins of power.
  • The people of the country should be saved from the humiliation of a person of foreign origin holding the reins of power.


[with object and adverbial]
1Check or guide (a horse) by pulling on its reins: he reined in his horse and waited
More example sentences
  • He reined his horse alongside hers; the groom dropped back to a discreet distance.
  • I mumbled, reining my horse up beside Jack's, who was leering into the trees, ‘They won't hurt us will they?’
  • Expertly reining her horse, she was soon side by side with him.
1.1Keep under control; restrain: with an effort, she reined back her impatience the government had failed to rein in public spending
More example sentences
  • If political leaders lack the control to rein in their more violent followers, they have no right to public protests.
  • The reality over the next five years is that the Government will have far less resources and will have to rein in spending significantly.
  • The museum has been forced to rein in its work in many areas: cutting numbers of staff, reducing opening hours, cancelling exhibitions and installing a rota of closed galleries.
restrain, check, curb, constrain, hold back, keep in check, keep under control, hold in, regulate, restrict, control, bridle, put the brakes on, slow down, curtail, limit, stop, arrest


The idiomatic phrase a free rein, which derives from the literal meaning of using reins to control a horse, is sometimes misinterpreted and written as a free reign. More than a third of the citations for the phrase in the Oxford English Corpus use reign instead of rein.



draw rein

British Stop one’s horse: he drew rein and waited for his friend to catch up
More example sentences
  • She drew rein, bringing her horse to a halt and facing the largest of the raiders.
  • Lancaster drew rein, tethering his horse in the thicket of pine just off the crest of the hill.
  • Her father guided the mare carefully through the courtyard to the front of the stone-built castle, then drew rein in front of a blond little boy sitting outside the wide arched doorway.

(a) free rein

Freedom of action or expression: he was given free rein to work out his designs
More example sentences
  • And telemarketers are given free rein to call your home.
  • The oil and gas companies who supported his candidacy were given free rein to write their own rules when it came to state policy on emissions control.
  • ‘These kids have a free rein to do what they want,’ he said.
freedom, scope, a free hand, leeway, latitude, elbow room, space, room, flexibility, liberty, independence, play, slack, free play, leisure, licence, room to manoeuvre, scope for initiative, freedom of action, freedom from restriction, indulgence, laxity, margin
informal wriggle room, wiggle room
French carte blanche

keep a tight rein on

Exercise strict control over: her only chance of survival was to keep a tight rein on her feelings
More example sentences
  • But while the company controls advertising and chooses programmes, the state-run TV station keeps a tight rein on news programming.
  • She's very spontaneous and can be aggressive at times, though she's usually able to keep a tight rein on that.
  • Analysts say the regime will keep a tight rein on dissidents and focus on securing social and political stability.
exercise strict control over, keep on a tight rein, allow little freedom to, regulate, manage, discipline, regiment, keep in line, rule with a rod of iron





Middle English: from Old French rene, based on Latin retinere 'retain'.

Words that rhyme with rein

abstain, appertain, arcane, arraign, ascertain, attain, Bahrain, bane, blain, brain, Braine, Cain, Caine, campaign, cane, cinquain, chain, champagne, champaign, Champlain, Charmaine, chicane, chow mein, cocaine, Coleraine, Coltrane, complain, constrain, contain, crane, Dane, deign, demesne, demi-mondaine, detain, disdain, domain, domaine, drain, Duane, Dwane, Elaine, entertain, entrain, explain, fain, fane, feign, gain, Germaine, germane, grain, humane, Hussein, inane, Jain, Jane, Jermaine, Kane, La Fontaine, lain, lane, legerdemain, Lorraine, main, Maine, maintain, mane, mise en scène, Montaigne, moraine, mundane, obtain, ordain, Paine, pane, pertain, plain, plane, Port-of-Spain, profane, rain, Raine, refrain, reign, retain, romaine, sane, Seine, Shane, Sinn Fein, skein, slain, Spain, Spillane, sprain, stain, strain, sustain, swain, terrain, thane, train, twain, Ujjain, Ukraine, underlain, urbane, vain, vane, vein, Verlaine, vicereine, wain, wane, Wayne

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: rein

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.