Read - reed

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Read and reed are two homophones that are rarely confused - except by spellcheckers, and careless typing.

  • 'To read' (a verb) is to receive information from a written source - a book, paper or computer monitor, for example. (You are reading now.) Further figurative meanings flow from this, for example the idea that your computer may be 'reading' data from the world-wide web in order to give you the material to read. (Note the two pronunciations, described at read (homograph). You may also want to see read (irregular verb).)
  • The primary meaning of the noun reed is as the name of a plant, normally the Common Reed (Phragmites australis), which grows in wetlands. It forms long straight stalks, and has been much used in roofs and other building applications, paper-making, and as arrows.
    • From its use as a raw material for vibrating mouthpieces in musical instruments like the saxophone, the word reed has come to be used elliptically to mean some of the instruments in the woodwind section of an orchestra (notably bassoon, clarinet and oboe). The mouthpieces themselves are also called 'reeds': a 'reed player' spends time preparing his 'reeds'.