1a tall, slender-leaved plant of the grass family, which grows in water or on marshy ground.
Genera Phragmites and Arundo, family Gramineae: several species, in particular the common (or Norfolk) reed (P. australis), which is used for thatching
used in names of plants similar to the reed and growing in wet habitats, e.g. bur-reed.
a 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
[mass noun]British straw used for thatching.
literary a rustic musical pipe made from a reed or from straw:as if thy waves had only heard the shepherd’s reed
2a thing or person resembling or likened to a reed, in particular:
a weak or impressionable person:the jurors were mere reeds in the wind
literary an arrow:a bright reed of energy pierced the starship bridge
(reeds) a set of semi-cylindrical adjacent mouldings like reeds laid together.
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
a wind instrument played with a reed.
an 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
5a weaver’s comb-like implement (originally made from reed or cane) for separating the threads of the warp and correctly positioning the weft.
a broken reed
a weak or ineffectual person:the superintendent of this building appears to be a broken reed
Old Englishhrēod, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch riet and German Ried