noun, plural rein·deer, (occasionally) rein·deers.
- any of several large deer of the genus Rangifer, of northern and arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, both male and female of which have antlers.
noun plural -deer or -deers
- a large deer, Rangifer tarandus, having large branched antlers in the male and female and inhabiting the arctic regions of Greenland, Europe, and Asia. It also occurs in North America, where it is known as a caribou
c.1400, from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse hreindyri “reindeer,” from dyr “animal” (see deer) + hreinn, by itself the usual name for the animal, from Proto-Germanic *khrinda- (cf. Old English hran “reindeer;” German Renn “reindeer,” which was altered by folk etymology influence of rennen “to run;” Swedish ren-ko “female reindeer,” with ko “cow” (n.)).
Probably from PIE *krei-, from base *ker- (1) “horn, head,” with derivatives referring to horned animals (both male and female reindeer have horns; those of the male are remarkable), and thus perhaps cognate with Greek krios “ram” (see kerato-). Older sources connect it to words in Lapp or Finnish. French renne, Spanish reno, Italian renna ultimately are from Germanic.