from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A device, such as a cylinder, spool, or frame, that turns on an axis and is used for winding and storing rope, tape, film, or other flexible materials.
  • noun A cylindrical device attached to a fishing rod to let out or wind up the line.
  • noun The quantity of wire, film, or other material wound on one reel.
  • noun A set of curved lawn-mower blades that rotate around a bar parallel to the ground, cutting grass while moving against a stationary straight blade.
  • transitive verb To wind on or let out from a reel.
  • transitive verb To recover by winding on a reel.
  • intransitive verb To be thrown off balance or fall back.
  • intransitive verb To stagger, lurch, or sway, as from drunkenness.
  • intransitive verb To go round and round in a whirling motion.
  • intransitive verb To feel dizzy.
  • intransitive verb To cause to reel.
  • noun A staggering, swaying, or whirling movement.
  • noun A moderately fast dance of Scottish origin.
  • noun The Virginia reel.
  • noun The music for one of these dances.
  • noun A handheld hammer used in a quarry for shaping granite blocks.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To turn round and round; whirl.
  • To sway from side to side in standing or walking; stagger, especially as one drunk.
  • To be affected with a whirling or dizzy sensation: as, his brain reeled.
  • Synonyms Reel, Stagger, and Totter have in common the idea of an involuntary unsteadiness, a movement toward falling. Only animate beings reel or stagger; a tower or other erect object may toter. Reel suggests dizziness or other loss of balance; stagger suggests a burden too great to be carried steadily, or a walk such as one would have in carrying such a burden; totter suggests weakness: one reels upon being struck on the head; a drunken man, a wounded man, staggers; the infant and the very aged totter.
  • To turn about; roll about.
  • To roll.
  • To reel or stagger through.
  • To cause to reel, stagger, totter, or shake.
  • To wind upon a reel, as yarn or thread from the spindle, or a fishing-line.
  • noun A cylinder or frame turning on an axis, on which thread, yarn, string, rope, etc, are wound.
  • noun A machine on which yarn is wound to form it into hanks, skeins, etc.
  • noun In rope-making, the frame on which the spun-yarns are wound as each length is twisted, previous to tarring or laying up into strands.
  • noun The revolving frame upon which silk-fiber is wound from the cocoon.
  • noun Anything prepared for winding thread upon, as an open framework turning on a pivot at each end, upon which thread is wound as it is spun, or when a skein is opened for use.
  • noun In telegraphy, a barrel on which the strip of paper for receiving the message is wound in a recording telegraph.
  • noun A winch used by English and Scotch whalemen for regaining the tow-line. It is not employed by Americans.
  • noun Nautical, a revolving frame varying in size, used for winding up hawsers, hose, lead-line, loglines, etc.
  • noun A windlass for hoisting oyster-dredges.
  • noun In milling, the drum on which the bolting cloth is placed.
  • noun In agriculture, a cylinder formed of light slats and radial arms, used with a reaper to gather the grain into convenient position for the knives to operate on it, and to direct its fall on the platform.
  • noun In baking, a cylindrical frame carrying bread-pans suspended from the horizontal arms of the frame. It is used in a form of oven called a reel oven.
  • noun A device used in angling, attached to the rod, for winding the line, consisting of a cylinder revolving on an axis moved by a small crank or spring. The salmon-reel is about four inches, and the trout-reel about two inches in diameter; the length is about two inches. In angling the reel plays an important part, its use and action requiring to be in perfect accord or correspondence with the play of the rod and line. To meet these requirements, clicks and multipliers are employed. The click checks the line from running out too freely, and the multiplier gathers in the slack with increased speed.
  • noun A hose-carriage.
  • To dance the reel; especially, to describe the figure 8 as in a reel.
  • noun A staggering motion, as that of a drunken man; giddiness.
  • noun (The attendant … carries off Lepidus [drunk].)… Eno, Drink thou; increase the reels.
  • noun A lively dance, danced by two or three couples, and consisting of various circliug or intertwining figures. it is very popular in Scotland.
  • noun Music for such a dance or in its rhythm, which is duple (or rarely sextuple), and characterized by notes of equal length.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To incline, in walking, from one side to the other; to stagger.
  • intransitive verb To have a whirling sensation; to be giddy.
  • noun A frame with radial arms, or a kind of spool, turning on an axis, on which yarn, threads, lines, or the like, are wound.
  • noun A machine on which yarn is wound and measured into lays and hanks, -- for cotton or linen it is fifty-four inches in circuit; for worsted, thirty inches.


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

[Middle English, from Old English hrēol.]

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

[Middle English relen, to whirl about, probably from reel, spool; see reel.]

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

[Origin unknown.]



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  • Leer in reverse.

    July 22, 2007

  • The Virginia reel is a folk dance that dates from the 17th century. Though the reel may have its origins in Scottish country dance and the Highland reel, and perhaps have an even earlier influence from an Irish dance called the Rinnce Fada, it is generally considered to be an English country dance. The dance was most popular in America from 1830-1890 and was first published in England (1865).

    The Virginia reel was a popular dance, and in each area there would be slight differences. This has given rise to a large number of dances called the Virginia reel. All of the versions have certain similarities, such as the reel figure.


    February 10, 2008

  • Reelly, folk dancing isn't all that exciting. I prefer swing any day of the week.

    February 10, 2008

  • For dancing, and on playgrounds, swing is the best. For playing folk music, though, reels and jigs are teh alsome.

    February 10, 2008

  • "Constellations Reel" by lcmt

    Whole night drummers came down

    from outcropping stars to join singers

    strangers, wayfarers, mariners, minstrels, storytellers,

    pilgrims, sightseers, passers-by, songbirds, dancers, beggars


    on mapped floors of the rivermouth,

    onrushing voices wound in diffuse

    asymmetry, outstretched and generous.

    copyright © 2010

    March 9, 2010

  • You forgot troubadours and raggle-taggle gypsies.

    n.b. if people are interested in reading your poetry I'm sure they'll follow the links on your profile.

    March 9, 2010

  • So you think I should delete it?

    March 9, 2010

  • If that's all you're here for, yeah. It wouldn't look so bad if you were contributing to the discussion in some way, or if the pieces you were posting were very closely linked with the words you were posting them on. As it is, it's just self-promotion isn't it?

    March 9, 2010

  • Since poetry has an intimate relationship with metaphor, a short poem seems as illustrative as any comment I've seen made by others here at Wordnik. I hoped to make a contribution to what you're trying to achieve here.

    March 9, 2010

  • As for the question of self-promotion, this is hardly an effective venue for a poet to promote his/her work, is it? But if there is a "No Poetry" policy, I can abstain.

    March 9, 2010