Rain, Reign, or Rein?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Rain," "Reign," and "Rein"?

"Rain," "reign," and "rein" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms). However, their meanings are very different.
  • "Rain" is the drops of water that fall from clouds.
    • I like walking in the rain.
  • "Reign" is the period a sovereign occupies the throne.
    • Queen Victoria's reign was 63 years and seven months.
  • "Rein" is a long strap used to guide or lead a horse.
    • Use your left hand to pull the rein.
    • ("Rein" is usually seen in the plural "reins" as there is a left rein and a right rein on a horse.)
rain, rein, or reign?

More about "Rain," "Reign," and "Rein"


The noun "rain" means the drops of water that fall from the clouds. (The word "rain" can also be used as a verb.)

Example sentences with "rain":
  • A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in. (King Frederick the Great)
  • My face looks like a wedding cake left out in the rain. (Poet W H Auden)
  • If it were raining soup, they would go out with forks. (Poet Brendan Behan)
  • (This is an example of "rain" being used as a verb.)


The noun "reign" means the period during which a sovereign occupies the throne. (The word "reign" can also be used as a verb.)

Example sentences with "reign":
  • Queen Elizabeth II has launched 17 ships during her reign.
  • Over the course of the Queen's reign, over a million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace.
  • Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years.
  • (This is an example of "reign" being used as a verb.)


The noun "rein" means a long strap, usually made from leather, that is used to lead a horse. (The word "rein" can also be used as a verb.)

Example sentences with "rein":
  • If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins. (Founding Fathers of the United States Benjamin Franklin)
  • Reins can be made of leather, nylon, or metal.
  • At what point does CNN wise up and rein in 'Larry King Live' to save itself? (Writer Phil Rosenthal)
  • (This is an example of "rein" being used as a verb.)

Free Rein or Free Reign?

Having "free rein" to do something means you have considerable freedom to act as you please. The term comes from the idea of loosening a horse's reins to give it more freedom.

Even though "free rein" is the original version of this saying, the term "free reign" has been so widely misused in its place, it has developed into an acceptable alternative.

Write "Free Rein" Not "Free Reign"

As language changes according to usage and as the term "free reign" makes perfect sense in its own right, it is difficult to claim that "free reign" is wrong. However, we advise you play it safe and go for "free rein." None of readers will baulk at the original version.

Common Terms with "Rain," "Rein," and "Reign"

Common terms with the word "rain":
  • rainwater
  • rainbow
  • rain showers
  • As right as rain.
  • It's raining cats and dogs.
Common terms with the word "rein":
  • free rein
  • pick up the reins
Common terms with the word "reign":
  • reign of terror
  • reign supreme
  • to reign over

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? List of easily confused words

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