1 [reyl]
a bar of wood or metal fixed horizontally for any of various purposes, as for a support, barrier, fence, or railing.
a fence; railing.
one of two fences marking the inside and outside boundaries of a racetrack.
one of a pair of steel bars that provide the running surfaces for the wheels of locomotives and railroad cars. See illus. under flange.
the railroad as a means of transportation: to travel by rail.
rails, stocks or bonds of railroad companies.
Nautical. a horizontal member capping a bulwark.
Carpentry, Furniture. any of various horizontal members framing panels or the like, as in a system of paneling, paneled door, window sash, or chest of drawers. Compare stile2.
Slang. a line of cocaine crystals or powder for inhaling through the nose.
verb (used with object)
to furnish or enclose with a rail or rails.

1250–1300; Middle English raile < Old French raille bar, beam < Latin rēgula bar, straight piece of wood, regula

railless, adjective
raillike, adjective
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2 [reyl]
verb (used without object)
to utter bitter complaint or vehement denunciation (often followed by at or against ): to rail at fate.
verb (used with object)
to bring, force, etc., by railing.

1425–75; late Middle English railen < Middle French railler to deride < Provençal ralhar to chatter < Vulgar Latin *ragulāre, derivative of Late Latin ragere to bray

railer, noun
railingly, adverb

1. fulminate, inveigh, castigate, rant, revile.


3 [reyl]
any of numerous birds of the family Rallidae, that have short wings, a narrow body, long toes, and a harsh cry and inhabit grasslands, forests, and marshes in most parts of the world.

1400–50; late Middle English rale < Old French raale (cognate with Provençal rascla), noun derivative of raler < Vulgar Latin *rāsiculāre frequentative of Latin rādere (past participle rāsus) to scratch

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
rail1 (reɪl)
1.  a horizontal bar of wood, metal, etc, supported by vertical posts, functioning as a fence, barrier, handrail, etc
2.  a horizontal bar fixed to a wall on which to hang things: a picture rail
3.  Compare stile a horizontal framing member in a door or piece of panelling
4.  short for railing
5.  one of a pair of parallel bars laid on a prepared track, roadway, etc, that serve as a guide and running surface for the wheels of a railway train, tramcar, etc
6.  a.  short for railway
 b.  (as modifier): rail transport
7.  nautical a trim for finishing the top of a bulwark
8.  off the rails
 a.  into or in a state of dysfunction or disorder
 b.  eccentric or mad
vb (usually foll by in or off)
9.  to provide with a rail or railings
10.  to fence (an area) with rails
[C13: from Old French raille rod, from Latin rēgula ruler, straight piece of wood]

rail2 (reɪl)
(intr; foll by at or against) to complain bitterly or vehemently: to rail against fate
[C15: from Old French railler to mock, from Old Provençal ralhar to chatter, joke, from Late Latin ragere to yell, neigh]

rail3 (reɪl)
any of various small wading birds of the genus Rallus and related genera: family Rallidae, order Gruiformes (cranes, etc). They have short wings, long legs, and dark plumage
[C15: from Old French raale, perhaps from Latin rādere to scrape]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"bar," c.1320, from O.Fr. reille, from V.L. *regla, from L. regula "straight stick," dim. form related to regere "to straighten, guide" (see right). Used figuratively for "thinness" from 1872. Technically, railings (1471) are horizontal, palings are vertical.

"small bird," mid-15c., from O.Fr. raale (13c.), related to râler "to rattle," of unknown origin, perhaps imitative.

"complain," 1460, from M.Fr. railler "to tease or joke" (15c.), perhaps from O.Prov. ralhar "scoff, to chat, to joke," from V.L. *ragulare "to bray" (cf. It. ragghiare "to bray"), from L.L. ragere "to roar," probably of imitative origin. See rally (2). Raillery "good-humored ridicule" is from 1653.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Computing Dictionary

RAIL definition

Automatix. High-level language for industrial robots.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see off the rails; thin as a rail; third rail.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
State rail firms have the ability to foil smaller rivals and new entrants.
Light rail is a great clean transit solution that could help many cities
  improve their quality of life.
The rail was a single line of meter-wide track, but it did the job, and people
  used it.
Undulating details repeat in the lighting and in the curtain rail.
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