- a part of a sail that is rolled and tied down to reduce the area exposed to the wind.
verb (used with object)
- to shorten (sail) by tying in one or more reefs.
- to reduce the length of (a topmast, a bowsprit, etc.), as by lowering, sliding inboard, or the like.
- to pull (old oakum) out of seams, as with a rave hook (often followed by out).
- a ridge of rock, sand, coral, etc, the top of which lies close to the surface of the sea
- a ridge- or mound-like structure built by sedentary calcareous organisms (esp corals) and consisting mainly of their remains
- a vein of ore, esp one of gold-bearing quartz
- the part gathered in when sail area is reduced, as in a high wind
- to reduce the area of (sail) by taking in a reef
- (tr) to shorten or bring inboard (a spar)
noun the Reef
1660s, “take in, roll up” (as a sail on a ship), from reef (n.2). Related: Reefed; reefing.
“rock ridge underwater,” 1580s, riffe, probably via Dutch riffe, from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse rif “ridge in the sea; reef in a sail,” literally “rib” (see rib (n.)).
“horizontal section of sail,” late 14c. (mid-14c. in rif-rope), from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse rif “reef of a sail,” probably a transferred use of rif “ridge under the sea; rib” (see rib (n.) and cf. reef (n.1)). German reff, Swedish ref, Norwegian riv, Danish reb likely all are from the Old Norse word.
- A strip or ridge of rocks, sand, or coral that rises to or near the surface of a body of water. See more at coral reef.