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Language Arts

Reign vs rein

One of the homophones "reign" and "rein" refers to control and the other to royalty. Do you know which is which? This article will define and compare "reign," "rein,"and "rain." From now on, you will know how to distinguish "rein," "reign," and "rain."

Monarchs often commence their reigns with some gesture meant to indicate that they have taken the reins of the kingdom under their control. As we have fewer monarchies in the world, the use of the word reign has waned somewhat, meaning that the proper spelling may not readily come to mind. Read this article for a greater understanding of how to distinguish reign and rein.


Reign is a noun and an intransitive verb - one that doesn’t take an object. As a noun, it can refer to a monarch’s exercise of power or the period of that monarch’s rule, or reign can be used more generally to speak of some other kind of rule. Here are examples:

What limitations their might be on a monarch’s reign depend on the country.

Queen Victoria, the final Hanoverian rule of England, the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, had a reign that lasted from 1837 to 1901.

The term “Reign of Terror” is used to characterize the period of the French Revolution from 1793 to 1794, during which thousands of executions took place.

As an intransitive verb, reign refers to the exercise of the power of the monarchy, the act of holding the title of monarch, and the act of being prevailing or dominant, as in these examples:

Some monarchs reign more heavy-handedly than others.

Queen Victoria reigned for most of the nineteenth century.

Terror reigned over the country of France.

The word reign came into English through Middle English reigne, and before that through Old French from the Latin regnum, a form of rex, “king.” It is pronounced /RAIN/.


Rein is a noun, a transitive verb (one that takes an object), and an intransitive verb (one that doesn’t need a stated object). As a noun, it refers to a leather strap that connects to an animals bridle and which the rider or driver uses for control. More general uses have rein refer to any means of control or restraint, or the means of an exercise of power. Here are examples:

The rider shortened the reins to her liking.

So well-trained was the toddler that his mother’s glance served as a rein to keep him well away from the curb and traffic.

The ruler held the reins of government in a gloved fist.

As a transitive verb, rein refers to exercising the control of reins or as if with reins, whereas as an intransitive verb, it means to control a horse or something else.

Transitive verb: The owner reined in his enthusiastic pooch so we could approach the buffet without being leapt upon.

Intransitive verb: The rider reined to end the canter around the ring.

Differentiating Reign and Rein

One simple way to remember which of the pair reign and rein to use for royalty, is to associate the g in reign with the g in king. The word of the pair that has a g, like king is for royalty; the other is for horses.

Some people also confuse rain, the noun and verb related to precipitation, with reign and rein. If this is a problem for you, you might connect the a in rain - the only one of the three words to have that letter - with “April showers” to help you remember it.

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