Word Confusion: Rain vs Rein vs Reign

Posted February 24, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Fortunately, rain is usually safe. Reign and rein, however… Oh. Boy.

I am always running into this word confusion, and it makes me nuts. How can one possibly confuse ruling with restraint? Let alone the obvious that rulers have rarely been known for restraint…*eye roll*… As it is, I am doing my best to rein in my ire over this reign of confusion that is raining down all over me!

Explore the differences:
Raining in your voice

I dunno. You’re making a gargling sound? Spitting?

Reigning in your voice

Dude, you rule with that voice of yours!

Reining in your voice

Holding back on showing your true voice.

He took up the rains of government.

I suppose you could interpret “rains” as the money that seems to shower all over pork barrel projects.

He took up the reigns of government.

Whoa. Impressive. Except I’m confused as to whether he’s influencing several countries, prevailing over several rulers, or maybe he’s simply really long-lived and has been dominating a series of rulers in one country??

He took up the reins of government.

He took over control of the government.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Rain Reign Rein
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: rain, reign, and rein; Dictionary.com

“Pedestrians Under Rain” by Alvimann courtesy of morgueFile

Yep, that’s rain, all right.

“Tara Wheeler was crowned Miss Virginia 2008” was photographed by Dworlando and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Miss Virginia 2008 reigned all year.

” Chevaliers” by Léon Abry is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

She’d better keep a tight hold on those reins!

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: rains
Past tense or past participle: rained
Gerund or present participle: raining

Noun 1; Verb, intransitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: reigns
Past tense or past participle: reigned

Noun 3; Verb, intransitive & transitive 4

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: reins
Past tense or past participle: reined
Gerund or present participle: reining

Water that condenses from vapor and falls from the sky as drops, i.e., weather

Verb, intransitive:
To send down rain

To fall as water in drops from the clouds

To fall like rain

Verb, transitive:
It may also be applied to anything that appears to fall through the air in quantities:

  • To pour down
  • To give abundantly
  • To rain heavily
To be in control

Period of time in which a person rules over a country, or a team holds onto a title

Dominion, sway, influence of one resembling a monarch

Verb, intransitive:
Exercise or possess the power of a ruling monarch

  • Exercise authority in the manner of a monarch

Predominant, prevail

To hold office as chief of state although possessing little governing power

Control, restrain

A narrow width of leather allowing the guidance of a four-legged creature, usually a horse or donkey

A restraining influence

[Usually used in the plural] Controlling or guiding power

Opportunity for unhampered activity or use

Verb, intransitive:
[Archaic] To submit to the use of reins

To stop or slow up one’s horse or oneself by or as if by pulling the reins

Verb, transitive:
The act of guiding a four-legged creature

Control or direct with or as if with reins

Check or stop by or as if by a pull at the reins

The rain is falling gently from the clouds.

He hasn’t the sense to come in out of the rain.

We are heading out rain or shine.

Verb, intransitive:
Soot and ash rained down.

Verb, transitive:
It’s raining cats and dogs.

It never rains, but it pours.

Don’t rain on my parade!

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has lasted for over 58 years.

President Obama’s reign only has two more years left.

the reign of digital technology

reign of terror

Verb, intransitive:
In America, baseball reigns supreme.

Confusion reigned in the ranks of milling soldiers.

The lion reigns in the jungle.

In England the sovereign reigns but does not rule.

Chaos reigned in the classroom.

Hold the reins for me, will you?

She gave full reign to her imagination.

She kept a tight rein on her children.

Obama is holding tight to the reins of government.

Verb, intransitive:
a horse that reins well

Verb, transitive:
The drover reined in his team.

He couldn’t rein in his impatience.

She gave him full rein.

Adjective: rainless
Noun: rainfall, rainlessness
Adjective: reigning, nonreigning, unreigning
Verb, intransitive: interreign
Verb, transitive: outreign
Adjective: reinless, unreined
History of the Word:
First known use: before the 12th century

Old English regn, rēn, which became the Middle English reyn.

Akin to the Old High German regan.

1 First known use of the noun: 13th century

2 First known use of the verb: 14th century

Middle English regne is from Anglo-French, which is itself from the Latin regnum, from reg- meaning rex king.

3 First known use as a noun: 14th century

First known use as a verb: 15th century

4 Middle English reine from the Anglo-French resne, reine, from the Vulgar Latin retina, which is from the Latin retinēre, meaning to restrain.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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