Rein In: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 14, 2023

The idiom "rein in" refers to controlling or restraining something or someone. It is often used when talking about limiting someone's behavior or keeping a situation under control. The phrase has its roots in horse riding, where reins are used to guide and control the horse.

In short:

"Rein in" means to restrain, control, or limit something.

What Does "Rein In" Mean?

The idiom "rein in" is used to describe the act of controlling, restraining, or limiting someone's actions or behavior. It often implies that the person or thing being controlled needs to be managed to prevent negative consequences.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning include:

  • Controlling or restraining behavior
  • Preventing negative consequences
  • Managing a situation or person

Where Does "Rein In" Come From?

The idiom "rein in" originated in the early 1600s. It refers to controlling a horse by pulling on its reins. The earliest uses were literal, referring to controlling a horse. By the mid-1600s, "rein in" began to be used figuratively, referring to limiting or restraining someone's uncontrolled or undisciplined behavior. The idiom is still commonly used today to convey limiting excessiveness or curbing wayward actions.

Historical Example

"I could then rein in my curiosity no longer..."

- The Monthly Mirror, 1799

10 Examples of "Rein In" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom used in various contexts:

  • The government needs to rein in spending to avoid increasing the national debt.
  • She struggled to rein in her temper when she heard the news.
  • As the bearer of bad news, it was my unpleasant duty to rein in expectations about unrealistic deadlines.
  • After missing several car payments, the vehicle was repoed, forcing the owner to rein in their spending.
  • Parents need to rein in their children's screen time for their overall well-being.
  • The teacher had to rein in the unruly students during the field trip.
  • He needed to rein in his gnarly behavior if he wanted to impress her parents.
  • Environmentalists are urging the government to rein in pollution from factories.
  • Though tempted to respond with a lame joke, I decided it was best to rein in my sarcasm during the tense negotiations.
  • The new regulations are designed to rein in the power of large corporations.

Examples of "Rein In" in Pop Culture

The phrase has been featured in various forms of pop culture, including movies, literature, and music.

Some notable examples are:

  • "Promise to rein in your awful levelheadedness" is a line from the 1974 drama film "Scenes from a Marriage."
  • "Rein it in, rookie. You can get away with mistakes like those in the minor decathlons, but this is the big leagues" is a quote from the 1997 animated movie "Hercules."
  • "Meeting your in-laws for the first time; likewise, you’ll tend to rein in the blue jokes." This is a quote from the 2016 history/rhetoric book, "Words Like Loaded Pistols."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Rein In"

There are several other expressions that convey a similar meaning to "rein in," such as:

  • Keep in check
  • Hold back
  • Put a leash on
  • Control
  • Restrain

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Rein In":

  • What does "rein in" mean?

"Rein in" is an idiom meaning to control, restrain, or limit someone's actions or behavior.

  • Where did the phrase "rein in" come from?

The origin of the phrase "rein in" comes from horse riding, where reins are used to guide and control a horse. The expression is derived from the act of pulling on the reins to slow down or stop a horse.

  • How do you use "rein in" in a sentence?

Here's an example sentence using "rein in": "He needs to rein in his spending habits if he wants to succeed in his future endeavors."

  • Is "rein in" considered formal or informal?

"Rein in" is a neutral expression that can be used in both formal and informal contexts. It is appropriate for use in everyday conversation, as well as in more formal settings, such as business or academic discussions.

  • Are there any alternatives to saying "rein in"?

Yes, other ways to express the idea of controlling or restraining include: curb, control, regulate, check, and restrain.

  • Is "rein in" a regional expression?

No, "rein in" is a widely used expression in English-speaking countries and regions. It is understood by speakers of English worldwide.

  • Can people use the idiom in formal contexts?

Yes, "rein in" is a neutral expression that can be used in both formal and informal contexts. It is suitable for use in business, academic, and everyday conversation.

  • Does "rein in" have any historical connections?

Yes, the historical connection of "rein in" is to horse riding, where reins are used to guide and control a horse. The expression comes from the act of pulling on the reins to slow down or stop a horse, and has since been adopted to describe controlling or restraining actions or behaviors.

  • Are there any popular sayings or quotes that include "rein in"?

While there may not be any well-known sayings or quotes specifically featuring "rein in," the phrase is commonly used in various contexts to describe the need for control or restraint.

  • Do people still use the phrase "rein in" today?

Yes, the phrase "rein in" is still commonly used today in both spoken and written English. It remains an effective way to convey the idea of controlling, restraining, or limiting someone's actions or behavior.

Final Thoughts About "Rein In"

To summarize, the idiom "rein in" refers to the act of controlling, restraining, or limiting someone's actions or behavior. It is a versatile expression that can be used in both formal and informal contexts, making it suitable for a wide range of situations. The phrase has its roots in horse riding, where reins are used to control and guide a horse.

Key aspects of the idiom "rein in":

  • Refers to controlling, restraining, or limiting actions or behavior
  • It has its origins in horse riding and the use of reins to control a horse
  • Appropriate for use in both formal and informal contexts

As a versatile expression, "rein in" can be used in both everyday conversations and more formal settings, such as business or academic discussions.

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