Definition of reel in English:

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Pronunciation: /rēl/


1A cylinder on which film, wire, thread, or other flexible materials can be wound.
Example sentences
  • ‘I have to keep rolling the thread reels which keeps my elbows moving,’ he said.
  • She was given a button, a needle, a cotton reel and a choice of private places she could use to sew a button on in school.
  • One is quite tempted to ask the projectionist if he keeps switching reels from different films.
1.1A length of something wound onto a reel: a reel of copper wire
More example sentences
  • A reel of release paper is loaded onto the machinery at 26 and is led through a variety of stages at which, one by one, the various layers of the leaflet/label are fed onto or cut in situ onto it.
  • Says Schellhorn: ‘People are calling to see if they can buy a reel of the ad.’
  • The tide of questions washed over the whines, rumbles and screams of the chain and gave him no chance to answer as the Lab coat looped a belt around his waist and hung a reel of string from his stomach.
1.2A part of a movie: in the final reel he is transformed from unhinged sociopath into local hero
More example sentences
  • Loose ends still abound in the final reel, leaving the film with a less than satisfying conclusion.
  • Despite noticeable speckles, nicks and the odd scratch, the first reel of the film looks quite good with excellent contrast and sharp images.
  • The eventual question is, to what lengths of madness will the obsessive Murnau go to complete the final reel of his masterwork?
1.3A device for winding and unwinding a line as required, in particular a fishing reel.
Example sentences
  • Mac reached around to the box and pulled out a metal rod, then a smaller reel and assembled the fishing line.
  • The boat tows the lure, the fish eats, the boat carries on, line comes off the reel and the fish is hooked.
  • A reel should be fully loaded if the fish are large enough and fast enough to empty the reel of all the line.
2A lively Scottish or Irish folk dance.
Example sentences
  • As a young officer in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he became adept at reels, strathspeys and sword dances.
  • Also on hand to entertain were young Irish dancers who performed reels, jigs and hornpipes.
  • Suzanne and her sister Ann-Marie danced jogs, reels and hornpipes, to the delight of everyone present.
2.1A piece of music for a reel, typically in simple or duple time.
Example sentences
  • A special cabaret night is in store as The Bridies give us a taste of some electrifying traditional music with funky reels from their debt album on Thursday, June 30.
  • Exhilarating and highly infectious, this young Canadian folk six-piece present an anthology of Quebecois dance tunes, Celtic reels and world music.
  • Later in Europe bones provided the rhythm to jigs and reels normally played on violin.
2.2 short for Virginia reel.


1 [with object] (reel something in) Wind a line onto a reel by turning the reel.
Example sentences
  • That's his hand holding my spent target, after I emptied a round in it and reeled it in.
  • Coming back in the rider raised his sword and brought it down on the stiff wire, shearing it through to prevent the bandits from reeling it in to fire at him a second time.
  • Then Mr Dilworth began the painstaking task of reeling them in.
1.1Bring something attached to a line, especially a fish, toward one by turning a reel and winding in the line: he struck, and reeled in a good perch
More example sentences
  • Before he knew it, a fish was tugging on the line, and he reeled it in.
  • At the same time the other anglers on the boat will need to reel their baits in to give the hooked-up angler room to fight the fish and eliminate the chance of tangling lines.
  • The tension in it was greatly reduced and he was slowly reeling the fish in.
2 [no object] Lose one’s balance and stagger or lurch violently: he punched Connolly in the ear, sending him reeling she reeled back against the van
More example sentences
  • The violent clash sent Quinton reeling.
  • An explosion of pain blinded me as I reeled and staggered, trying vainly to catch my balance.
  • The Royalists set to and the Scots reeled and staggered but they held out and were joined by the Scots' second line and the Royalists fell back.
stagger, lurch, sway, rock, stumble, totter, wobble, falter
2.1Feel very giddy, disoriented, or bewildered, typically as a result of an unexpected setback: the unaccustomed intake of alcohol made my head reel figurative the nationalist government is already reeling from 225 percent monthly inflation
More example sentences
  • ‘At the moment people are reeling from the shock, but soon I think they're going to start considering the future,’ said Mr Palmer.
  • Senator Higgins said the community was still obviously reeling in shock at how such a gruesome tragedy should happen in the midst of a tight knit community and nobody was aware of it.
  • Farmers are reeling from the latest shock to hit their industry, as a devastating livestock disease made its first appearance in Britain for 20 years.
2.2 [with adverbial of direction] Walk in a staggering or lurching manner, especially while drunk: the two reeled out of the bar arm in arm
More example sentences
  • ‘It is humiliating to see people reeling around dead drunk on a Friday or Saturday night,’ she says.
  • Diners are discreetly shielded from the gaze of drinkers reeling past outside by the kind of blinds you often find on Greek or Italian restaurants.
  • Danny was downbeat and self-absorbed, reeling from one personal incident to the next like a ship without a compass, and his friends were a mixed bunch of dipsomaniacs and egotists.
3 [no object] Dance a reel.
Example sentences
  • Anyone who wanted to dance could reel to the sound of the ceilidh band playing at the Butter Cross.
  • So we can jig and reel, and strathspey, we are capable of pas de pax setting, possettes and allemande, and we even know the names of some of the people that go there.

Phrasal verbs

reel something off

Say or recite something rapidly and without apparent effort: she proceeded to reel off in rapid Italian the various dishes of the day
More example sentences
  • Germany's third defeat under Klinsmann saw the nation's powerful tabloid media reel off a long list of shortcomings.
  • Shorter plays tenor far more than soprano, and reels off solo after solo that re-emphasise why he is special.
  • Fortier reels off countries whose scenes impress him.



Pronunciation: /ˈrēlər/
Example sentences
  • As reelers, the boys dip their hands into scalding water and palpate the silk cocoons, sensing by touch whether the fine silk threads have loosened enough to be unwound.
  • The Newcastle firm is a global supplier of large winches, umbilical reelers and handling equipment.
  • In a survey of the Florentine silk industry in 1663, 78 per cent of adult weavers were women, as were 65 per cent of throwsters, and apparently all 8,004 reelers of silk for thread, including 3,288 girls under the age of 15.


Old English hrēol, denoting a rotatory device on which spun thread is wound; of unknown origin.

Words that rhyme with reel

allele, anele, anneal, appeal, Bastille, Beale, Castile, chenille, cochineal, cockatiel, conceal, congeal, creel, deal, eel, Emile, feel, freewheel, genteel, Guayaquil, heal, heel, he'll, keel, Kiel, kneel, leal, Lille, Lucille, manchineel, meal, misdeal, Neil, O'Neill, ordeal, peal, peel, schlemiel, seal, seel, she'll, spiel, squeal, steal, steel, Steele, teal, underseal, veal, weal, we'll, wheel, zeal

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: reel

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