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See also: Reef


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Etymology 1[edit]

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.

Alternative forms[edit]


reef (comparative reefer or more reef, superlative reefest or most reef)

  1. Scabby; scurvy.


reef (plural reefs)

  1. (Now chiefly dialectal) The itch; any eruptive skin disorder.
  2. (Now chiefly dialectal) Dandruff.

Etymology 2[edit]

From earlier riff, from Middle English rif, from Old Norse rif(rib, reef), from Proto-Germanic *ribją(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.

Alternative forms[edit]


Wikipedia has an article on:

reef (plural reefs)

  1. A chain or range of rocks, sand, or coral lying at or near the surface of the water.
  2. (Australia, South Africa) A large vein of auriferous quartz; hence, any body of rock yielding valuable ore.
  3. (nautical) A portion of a sail rolled and tied down to lessen the area exposed in a high wind.
  4. A reef knot.
Derived terms[edit]


reef (third-person singular simple present reefs, present participle reefing, simple past and past participle reefed)

  1. (nautical) To take in part of a sail in order to adapt the size of the sail to the force of the wind.
    • 1970 July–December, Margaret Quilty, Roller Reefing Made Easy, Boating, page 63,
      Be sure the blocks are securely mounted—they carry a fairish load when the sail is reefed.
      If both reefing line and main halyard are led to the cockpit, even singlehanded reefing is a breeze.
    • 1995, David Seidman, The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing, page 104,
      Mains are made smaller by reefing. This can be done by rolling up the sail around the boom, or by the more traditional method of tying down a panel along the foot.
    • 2004, Charlie Wing, How Boat Things Work, page 108,
      The reefing system for a mainsail must be designed to operate efficiently under adverse conditions and to provide proper sail shape when reefed.
  2. (Australia) To pull or yank strongly, especially in relation to horse riding.
    • 1986, Jan Wositzky, Me and Phar Lap: The Remarkable Life of Tommy Woodcock, 2011, page 49,
      And when the Cup came on he stirred them up ′round the barrier and he flew out of the barrier and he pulled and reefed and pulled and reefed and Lewis didn′t let him settle down until about three furlongs from home and when he did settle the horse was all out of stride and he went back through the field a fair bit.
    • 1994, Herb Wharton, Cattle Camp: Murrie Drovers and Their Stories, 2010, page 73,
      Alf told me that one young white stockman, eager to impress the girls, went outside and mounted his horse, then began showing off his prowess, racing past the pub, wheeling and reefing his horse up and down the street, yackeyeing and whooping, flogging his horse with a battered old hat and always turning towards the pub to see if the girls were watching these feats of horsemanship.
    • 2007, Marion Houldsworth, Maybe It′ll Rain Tomorrow, 2012, page 104,
      [] head stockman would say ‘Cut one out but take him at a walk.′ And if you could get that beast out without reefing your horse around, the head stockman – he′d be a pretty cluey old coot - he′s watching that horse′s ears more than what you were doing.
  3. (nautical, of paddles) To move the floats of a paddle wheel toward its center so that they will not dip so deeply.
    Reef the paddles.