Dictionary.com Word FAQs
What is the etymology of reindeer?
This deer-like animal with large branching antlers was once common in central Europe, but later became confined to subarctic regions. It is the only deer in which both sexes have antlers. The caribou of North America is a variety of this animal. The word is first seen in Old English c. 893 in a description of Norway. It is from Old Norse hreindyri, from hreinn 'reindeer' and dyr 'deer' - hence making reindeer redundant. So, it has nothing to do with reins, even though Santa Claus uses reins on his reindeer!