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

  • n. 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.
  • n. A cylindrical device attached to a fishing rod to let out or wind up the line.
  • n. The quantity of wire, film, or other material wound on one reel.
  • n. 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 v. To wind on or let out from a reel.
  • transitive v. To recover by winding on a reel: reel in a large fish.
  • reel off To recite fluently and usually at length: reeled off a long list of names and dates.
  • intransitive v. To be thrown off balance or fall back: reeled from the sharp blow.
  • intransitive v. To stagger, lurch, or sway, as from drunkenness: reeled down the alley.
  • intransitive v. To go round and round in a whirling motion: gulls reeling and diving.
  • intransitive v. To feel dizzy: My head reeled with the facts and figures.
  • transitive v. To cause to reel.
  • n. A staggering, swaying, or whirling movement.
  • n. A moderately fast dance of Scottish origin.
  • n. The Virginia reel.
  • n. The music for one of these dances.
  • n. Maine A hand-held hammer used in a quarry for shaping granite blocks. See Regional Note at reeling.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A lively dance of the Highlanders of Scotland; also, the music to the dance; -- often called Scotch reel.
  • n. A frame with radial arms, or a kind of spool, turning on an axis, on which yarn, threads, lines, or the like, are wound
  • n. 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.
  • n. A device consisting of radial arms with horizontal stats, connected with a harvesting machine, for holding the stalks of grain in position to be cut by the knives.
  • n. A short compilation of sample film work used as a demonstrative resume in the entertainment industry.
  • v. To wind on a reel.
  • v. To spin or revolve repeatedly.
  • v. To unwind, to bring or acquire something by spinning or winding something else.
  • v. To walk shakily or unsteadily; to stagger; move as if drunk or not in control of one's self.
  • v. To back off or step away unsteadily and quickly.
  • v. To make or cause to reel.
  • v. To be in shock

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A lively dance of the Highlanders of Scotland; also, the music to the dance; -- often called Scotch reel.
  • n. A frame with radial arms, or a kind of spool, turning on an axis, on which yarn, threads, lines, or the like, are wound.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A device consisting of radial arms with horizontal stats, connected with a harvesting machine, for holding the stalks of grain in position to be cut by the knives.
  • n. The act or motion of reeling or staggering.
  • intransitive v. To incline, in walking, from one side to the other; to stagger.
  • intransitive v. To have a whirling sensation; to be giddy.
  • transitive v. To roll.
  • transitive v. To wind upon a reel, as yarn or thread.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To wind upon a reel, as yarn or thread from the spindle, or a fishing-line.
  • 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 dance the reel; especially, to describe the figure 8 as in a reel.
  • n. A cylinder or frame turning on an axis, on which thread, yarn, string, rope, etc, are wound.
  • n. A machine on which yarn is wound to form it into hanks, skeins, etc.
  • n. 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.
  • n. The revolving frame upon which silk-fiber is wound from the cocoon.
  • n. 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.
  • n. In telegraphy, a barrel on which the strip of paper for receiving the message is wound in a recording telegraph.
  • n. A winch used by English and Scotch whalemen for regaining the tow-line. It is not employed by Americans.
  • n. Nautical, a revolving frame varying in size, used for winding up hawsers, hose, lead-line, loglines, etc.
  • n. A windlass for hoisting oyster-dredges.
  • n. In milling, the drum on which the bolting cloth is placed.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A hose-carriage.
  • n. A staggering motion, as that of a drunken man; giddiness.
  • n. (The attendant … carries off Lepidus [drunk].)… Eno, Drink thou; increase the reels.
  • n. A lively dance, danced by two or three couples, and consisting of various circliug or intertwining figures. it is very popular in Scotland.
  • n. Music for such a dance or in its rhythm, which is duple (or rarely sextuple), and characterized by notes of equal length.

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

  • n. winder consisting of a revolving spool with a handle; attached to a fishing rod
  • n. a winder around which thread or tape or film or other flexible materials can be wound
  • v. walk as if unable to control one's movements
  • v. wind onto or off a reel
  • v. revolve quickly and repeatedly around one's own axis
  • n. an American country dance which starts with the couples facing each other in two lines
  • n. music composed for dancing a reel
  • n. a roll of photographic film holding a series of frames to be projected by a movie projector
  • n. a lively dance of Scottish Highlanders; marked by circular moves and gliding steps


Middle English, from Old English hrēol.
Middle English relen, to whirl about, probably from reel, spool; see reel1.
Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)



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  • Bracketed w/ comment.

    March 10, 2010

  • I wondered whether you were playing on "a gate hinge" too. Also, for posterity, I think you should place brackets around "a vast obtuse entity." ;->

    March 10, 2010

  • We're reel happy to have you here...

    March 9, 2010

  • Thank you for your welcomes! I have been writing poetry with exuberance lately and I've been using Wordnik (insert synonym for exuberantly).

    reesetee, "The Agate Hinge" is the title of a poem I wrote a few years ago--I've been lugging the phrase "agate hinge" around with me since, without really understanding why I chose it. Last year, a gentleman asked me if it was wordplay for "a gate hinge", which had not occurred to me, which only reaffirmed my self-image as a vast obtuse entity.

    March 9, 2010

  • Versificatory ding-dong is the sound made by yarbells.

    March 9, 2010

  • Welcome, agatehinge. Please do feel free to join in the general mayhem as well as posting your (or someone else's) poetry.

    P.S. Nifty screen name. :-)

    March 9, 2010

  • Although my main purpose in visiting the site is to warn the lexicographical community about the dangers of putting bananas in the refrigerator, I quite enjoy seeing a little poetry flash by on the Zeitgeist page. My own talents tend more toward doggerel, but each of us has to work with what we are given.

    Welcome to Wordnik, agatehinge!

    March 9, 2010

  • Just my personal opinion, but I don't mind the odd poem here and there. It's been done before.

    As yarb says, it's easier to not set off the self-promotion sensors (and censors) if you contribute in other ways. But it looks like you're doing that.

    Welcome to Wordnik!

    March 9, 2010

  • yarb, you think I don't feel daft?

    March 9, 2010

  • bilby, I hope you're not thinking "wound" as an injury, that would be hurtful. Be assured, I was not angling to become the poet laureate of Wordnik.

    March 9, 2010

  • raggle taggle ruminants?

    March 9, 2010

  • There certainly isn't a "no poetry" policy! Knock yourself out. I'm quite partial to a versificatory ding-dong myself; I must have written a good half dozen poems in my time (which is very different from half a dozen good poems). I'd feel a bit daft posting my own stuff on Wordnik, though.

    March 9, 2010

  • Well, fair enough. Personally I like seeing poems added here, despite 'wound in diffuse asymmetry' making my head hurt. As yarb said, if people seem overly eager to push a certain kind of barrow here - their site, their work, their organisation, their colon cleanse miracle, etc. - it can be tiresome.

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • So you think I should delete it?

    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

  • "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

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

    February 10, 2008

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

    February 10, 2008

  • 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

  • Leer in reverse.

    July 22, 2007