Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A strip or ridge of rocks, sand, or coral that rises to or near the surface of a body of water.
  • n. A vein of ore.
  • n. A portion of a sail rolled and tied down to lessen the area exposed to the wind.
  • transitive v. To reduce the size of (a sail) by tucking in a part and tying it to or rolling it around a yard.
  • transitive v. To shorten (a topmast or bowsprit) by taking part of it in.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Scabby; scurvy.
  • n. The itch; any eruptive skin disorder.
  • n. Dandruff.
  • n. A chain or range of rocks, sand, or coral lying at or near the surface of the water.
  • n. A large vein of auriferous quartz; hence, any body of rock yielding valuable ore.
  • n. A portion of a sail rolled and tied down to lessen the area exposed in a high wind.
  • n. A reef knot.
  • v. To take in part of a sail in order to adapt the size of the sail to the force of the wind.
  • v. To pull or yank strongly.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A chain or range of rocks lying at or near the surface of the water. See Coral reefs, under coral.
  • n. A large vein of auriferous quartz; -- so called in Australia. Hence, any body of rock yielding valuable ore.
  • n. That part of a sail which is taken in or let out by means of the reef points, in order to adapt the size of the sail to the force of the wind.
  • transitive v. To reduce the extent of (as a sail) by rolling or folding a certain portion of it and making it fast to the yard or spar.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Nautical, to take a reef or reefs in; reduce the size of (a sail) by rolling or folding up a part and securing it by tying reef-points about it.
  • To gather up stuff of any kind in away similar to that described in def. 1. Compare reefing.
  • See the quotation.
  • Scabby; scurvy.
  • n. The itch; also, any eruptive disorder.
  • n. Dandruff.
  • In Australian mining, to work at a reef.
  • n. A low, narrow ridge of rocks, rising ordinarily but a few feet above the water.
  • n. Any extensive elevation of the bottom of the sea; a shoal; abank: so called by fishermen.
  • n. In Australia, the same as lode, vein, or ledge of the Cordilleran miner: as, a quartz-reef (that is, a quartz-vein).
  • n. A kind of commercial sponge which grows on reefs.
  • n. Nautical, a part of a sail rolled or folded up, in order to diminish the extent of canvas exposed to the wind.
  • n. In the Tyrolese Alps, and especially in the region of the dolomites, “massive un-stratified limestones and dolomites rising amid strikingly contrasted sediments.”

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. reduce (a sail) by taking in a reef
  • n. one of several strips across a sail that can be taken in or rolled up to lessen the area of the sail that is exposed to the wind
  • n. a submerged ridge of rock or coral near the surface of the water
  • n. a rocky region in the southern Transvaal in northeastern South Africa; contains rich gold deposits and coal and manganese
  • v. roll up (a portion of a sail) in order to reduce its area
  • v. lower and bring partially inboard

Etymologies

Obsolete Dutch rif, possibly from Old Norse, ridge.
Middle English riff, from Old Norse rif, ridge, reef.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English ref, hreof, from Old English hrēof ("rough, scabby, leprous", also "a leper"), from Proto-Germanic *hreubaz (“rough, scabby, scrubby”), from Proto-Indo-European *kreup- (“scab, crust”), related to Old English hrēofla ("leprosy, leper"). Cognate with Scots reif ("a skin disease leaving crusts on the skin, the scab"), Old High German riob ("leprous, scabby, mangy"), Icelandic hrjúfur ("scabby, rough"). Compare riffe, dandruff. (Wiktionary)
From earlier riff, from Middle English rif, from Old Norse rif ("rib, reef"), from Proto-Germanic *rebjan (“rib, reef”), from Proto-Indo-European *rebh- (“arch, ceiling, cover”). Cognate with Dutch rif ("reef"), Low German riff, reff ("reef"), German Riff ("reef, ledge"), Old English ribb ("rib"). More at rib. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • The act of reducing the surface area of a sail, usually to protect both the sail and the boat from high winds.

    October 23, 2008