AskDefine | Define reel

Dictionary Definition



1 a roll of photographic film holding a series of frames to be projected by a movie projector
2 music composed for dancing a reel
3 winder consisting of a revolving spool with a handle; attached to a fishing rod
4 a winder around which thread or tape or film or other flexible materials can be wound [syn: bobbin, spool]
5 a lively dance of Scottish highlanders; marked by circular moves and gliding steps [syn: Scottish reel]
6 an American country dance which starts with the couples facing each other in two lines [syn: Virginia reel]


1 walk as if unable to control one's movements; "The drunken man staggered into the room" [syn: stagger, keel, lurch, swag, careen]
2 revolve quickly and repeatedly around one's own axis; "The dervishes whirl around and around without getting dizzy" [syn: spin, spin around, whirl, gyrate]
3 wind onto or off a reel

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A lively dance of the Highlanders of Scotland; also, the music to the dance; -- often called Scotch reel.
  2. A frame with radial arms, or a kind of spool, turning on an axis, on which yarn, threads, lines, or the like, are wound
    a log reel, used by seamen
    an angler's reel
    a garden reel
  3. A machine on which yarn is wound and measured into lays and hanks, -- for cotton or linen it is fifty-four inches in circuit; for worsted, thirty inches.
  4. A device consisting of radial arms with horizontal stats, connected with a harvesting machine, for holding the stalks of grain in position to be cut by the knives.
  5. A short compilation of sample film work used as a demonstrative resume in the entertainment industry.


Dance, music
  • Danish: reel
Machine for winding yarns
Device for a harvesting machine
Compilation of film


  1. To wind on a reel.
  2. To spin or revolve repeatedly.
  3. To unwind, to bring or acquire something by spinning or winding something else.
    He reeled off some tape from the roll and sealed the package.
  4. To walk shakily or unsteadily; to stagger; move as if drunk or not in control of one's self.
  5. (reel back) To back off or step away unsteadily and quickly.
    He reeled back from the punch.
  6. To make or cause to reel.


* 1996, Janette Turner Hospital, Oyster, Virago Press, paperback edition, page 111
  • Sarah reels a little, nevertheless, under the dog's boisterous greeting.


to wind on a reel
  • Finnish: keriä, kelata, rullata
to spin or revolve repeatedly
  • Danish: rulle, spole, vinde
  • Finnish: pyörittää (transitive), pyöriä (intransitive)
to bring or acquire something by spinning or winding something else
to walk shakily or unsteadily
(reel back) to back off or step away unsteadily and quickly
  • Danish: vakle
  • Finnish: horjahtaa
to make or cause to reel
  • Finnish: horjuttaa (reel back), pyörittää (spin)




  1. real, proper
  2. reliable, trustworthy, honest (about a person)


  1. reel (dance)

Extensive Definition

A reel is an object around which lengths of another material (usually long and flexible) are wound for storage. Generally a reel has a cylindrical core and walls on the sides to retain the material wound around the core. In some cases the core is hollow, although other items may be mounted on it, and grips may exist for mechanically turning the reel.
The size of the core is dependent on several factors. A smaller core will obviously allow more material to be stored in a given space. However, there is a limit to how tightly the stored material can be wound without damaging it and this limits how small the core can be.
Other issues affecting the core size include:
  • Mechanical strength of the core (especially with large reels)
  • Acceptable turning speed (for a given rate of material moving on or off the reel a smaller core will mean that an almost empty reel has to turn faster)
  • any functional requirements of the core e.g.
    • For a reel that must be mechanically turned the size of the grips that mount it on the mechanical turning device.
    • The size of the mountings needed to support the core during unwinding.
    • Anything mounted on the cores (e.g. the sockets on an extension reel)
With material such as photographic film that is flat and long but is relatively wide, the material generally is stored in successive single layers. In cases where the material is more uniform in cross-section (for example, a cable), the material may be safely wound around a reel that is wider than its width. In this case, several windings are needed to create a layer on the reel.


  • A fishing reel is used on a fishing rod to wind the fishing line up.
  • Kite lines frequently are operated from reels.
  • Specialized reels for holding tow line for hang glider, glider, and sailplane launching
  • Laying of communications table use giant reels
  • Winches wind cables on reels
  • Webbing barriers that allow mobile post positions collect tensionally excess webbing.
  • Tow trucks hold steel cable on reels.
  • Garden hoses reeled solve hose kink problems.
  • Rope, wire and cable is often supplied on reels.
  • Badge reels are used to hold badges, ski passes and the like

Motion picture terminology

It is traditional to discuss the length of theatrical motion pictures in terms of "reels." The standard length of a 35 mm motion picture reel is 1000 feet. This length runs approximately 11 minutes at sound speed (24 frames per second) and slightly longer at silent movie speed (which may vary from approximately 16 to 18 frames per second). Most films have visible cues which mark the end of the reel. This allows projectionists running reel-to-reel to change-over to the next reel on the other projector.
A so-called "two-reeler" would have run about 20-24 minutes since the actual short film shipped to a movie theater for exhibition may have had slightly less (but rarely more) than 1000 feet on it. Most projectionists today use the term "reel" when referring to a 2000-foot "two-reeler," as modern films are rarely shipped by single 1000-foot reels. A standard Hollywood movie averages about five 2000-foot reels in length.
The "reel" was established as a standard measurement because of considerations in printing motion picture film at a film laboratory, for shipping (especially the film case sizes) and for the size of the physical film magazine attached to the motion picture projector. Had it not been standardized (at 1000 feet of 35 mm film) there would have been many difficulties in the manufacture of the related equipment. A 16 mm "reel" is 400 feet. It runs, at sound speed, approximately the same amount of time (11-12 minutes) as a 1000-foot 35 mm reel.
A split reel is a motion picture film reel in two halves that, when assembled, hold a specific length of motion picture film that has been wound on a plastic core. Using a split reel allows film to be shipped or handled in a lighter and smaller form than film would on a "fixed" reel. In silent film terminology, two films on one reel.

Demo reels

A demo reel, or show reel, is the motion picture or video equivalent of an artist's portfolio. It is typically used as a tool to promote the artist's skill, talent, and experience in a selected field, such as acting, directing, cinematography, editing, special effects, animation, or video games and other graphics. The demo reel is frequently submitted with a résumé to a prospective employer. When a reel contains scenes from actual productions, a shot list or credit list may also be submitted to describe the artist's specific involvement in each portion of the reel. While the usage of video excerpts on such showreels can be regarded as a breach of copyright, it is generally accepted in the film industry to do so, as it is the only tool of an artist to actually self-promote her/his work.


reel in German: Spule (Rolle)
reel in Japanese: リール (機構)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Charybdis, Chinese windlass, Spanish windlass, avoid, be drunk, be intoxicated, blench, blink, blunder, bob, bobble, call off, capstan, careen, career, centrifugate, centrifuge, coggle, crab, crank, crank in, cringe, dangle, dizzy round, dodge, draw back, draw in, draw taut, duck, eddy, enumerate, evade, fade, fall back, falter, flinch, flounce, flounder, fluctuate, flutter, gurge, gyre, hang back, heave, hobbyhorse, itemize, jib, labor, librate, list, lurch, maelstrom, make heavy weather, name, nutate, oscillate, pass out, pendulate, pirouette, pitch, pitch and plunge, pitch and toss, plunge, pound, pull back, pull in, purl, quail, rat race, rear, recite, recoil, reel back, reel in, reel off, resonate, retreat, review, rock, roll, round, run over, run through, scend, see double, seethe, shake, sheer off, shrink, shrink back, shy, sidestep, spin, stagger, stammer, start aside, start back, struggle, stumble, surge, swag, sway, swerve, swim, swing, swinging, swirl, tackle, tauten, teeter, thrash about, tighten, topple, toss, toss and tumble, toss and turn, totter, trim, tumble, turn, turn aside, twirl, vacillate, vibrate, volutation, vortex, wag, waggle, wallop, wallow, wave, waver, weasel, weasel out, weave, welter, wheel, whirl, whirligig, whirlpool, whirlwind, wince, winch, wind in, windlass, wobble, yaw
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