free reign

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Eggcorn misconstruction of free rein (literally relaxed reins (on a horse)), confounding rein (straps used in steering) with reign (rule).


free reign

  1. (nonstandard, sometimes proscribed) Alternative form of free rein

Usage notes[edit]

Evidence from various corpora suggests that 25% (in 2008 per Google Books Ngram data[1]) to 46% (in 2007 per Oxford English Corpus data)[2] of uses of "free rein" or "free reign" in English texts are of "free reign", leading some references to consider it an acceptable variant spelling.


  1. ^ Ngram Viewer
  2. ^ Are We Giving Free Rei(g)n to New Spelling, October 18th, 2007, Ben Zimmer, OUPblog

Further reading[edit]