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Etymology 1[edit]

From reef +‎ -er.


reefer (plural reefers)

  1. (nautical) Someone who reefs sails, especially a midshipman.
    • 1922, Katherine Mansfield, ‘Prelude’, Oxford 2002 (Selected Stories), p. 85:
      Her reefer cap was all on one side and on her cheek there was the print of an anchor button she had pressed on while sleeping.
    • 1905, John Masefield, Sea Life in Nelson's Times, p. 27:
      The mess table, at which the reefers and mates made merry, was fixed in the middle of the berth.
  2. A reefer jacket; a close-fitting jacket or short coat of thick cloth.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Clipping of refrigerator.


reefer (plural reefers)

  1. (colloquial, chiefly US) A refrigerated, insulated trailer, ship or shipping container.
    • 1988, Jane Stern & Michael Stern, A taste of America, →ISBN, page 41:
      Next to the cash register, a bulletin board was thumbtacked with notes from deadheaders who needed loads heading west, and shippers looking for a reefer (refrigerated truck) going down to Florida.
  2. (rail transport, US) a refrigerator car (type of boxcar).

Etymology 3[edit]

Origin uncertain. Perhaps from regional Spanish grifa (cannabis) (Mexico), grifo (someone who smokes cannabis) (Central America).


reefer (countable and uncountable, plural reefers) (slang)

  1. (countable) A marijuana cigarette.
  2. (uncountable) Marijuana.
    • 1982, Edward G. Fletcher; Melle Mel (lyrics and music), “The Message”, in The Message, performed by Grandmaster Flash:
      Daddy I don't want to go to school because the teacher's a jerk, he must think I'm a fool and all the kids smoke reefer, I think it'd be cheaper if I just got a job learned to be a street sweeper.