Skip to main content
Select Source:

rail

rail, common name for some members of the large family Rallidae, marsh and tropical forest birds that include the gallinule and the coot, two specialized rails. Rails are cosmopolitan in distribution, except in polar regions. Although migratory, they have small wings and are weak fliers, escaping danger by concealment rather than flight. They are protectively colored in drab browns and reds and have extremely slender bodies (whence the expression "thin as a rail" ) and strong legs, enabling them to dart through thick marsh vegetation undetected. Rails, also called mud hens or marsh hens, are omnivorous, hunting their food at nightfall. They may be divided into two major types: the long-billed rails, which include the Virginia (Rallus limicola), king, clapper, and water rails; and those with short, conical bills, including the sora (Porzana carolina), yellow, and black rails (called crakes in Europe.) Gallinules are rails that have webbed toes; they are more aquatic and less timid than those members of the family specifically called rails. They have bright forehead shields and are widespread in temperate and tropical regions. The common American gallinule, Gallinula chloropus, and the similar Eurasian moorhen are drab in color; the gaudier purple gallinule, Porphyrula martinica, found from Texas to Ecuador, has blue-green plumage and yellow legs. Fifteen species of extinct flightless rails are known, and a number of flightless rails and gallinules still exist. The rails are all considered good game birds and are perhaps the most widely distributed of all the avian families. Rails are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Gruiformes, family Rallidae.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rail

"rail." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rail

rail

rail1 / rāl/ • n. 1. a bar or series of bars, typically fixed on upright supports, serving as part of a fence or barrier or used to hang things on. ∎  (the rails) the inside boundary fence of a racecourse. ∎  the edge of a surfboard or sailboard. ∎  the rim of a billiard or pool table. 2. a steel bar or continuous line of bars laid on the ground as one of a pair forming a railroad track: trolley rails. ∎  [often as adj.] railroads as a means of transportation: rail fares traveling by rail. 3. a horizontal piece in the frame of a paneled door or sash window. Compare with stile2 . 4. Electr. a conductor that is maintained at a fixed potential and to which other parts of a circuit are connected. • v. 1. [tr.] provide or enclose (a space or place) with a rail or rails: the altar is railed off from the nave. 2. [intr.] (in windsurfing) sail the board on its edge, so that it is at a sharp angle to the surface of the water. PHRASES: go off the rails inf. begin behaving in a strange, abnormal, or wildly uncontrolled way.DERIVATIVES: rail·less adj. rail2 • v. [intr.] (rail against/at/about) complain or protest strongly and persistently about: he railed at human fickleness. DERIVATIVES: rail·er n. rail3 • n. a secretive bird (Rallus and other genera) with drab gray and brown plumage, typically having a long bill and found in dense waterside vegetation. The rail family (Rallidae) also includes the crakes, gallinules, moorhens, and coots.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-0

"rail." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-0

rail

rail.
1. Horizontal member of a wall-frame between the posts or studs in timber-framed construction.

2. Horizontal timber in a door, panelling, wainscot, etc. Types of rail include:chair-rail: cornice at the top of a dado around a room;clamp rail: rebated timber to receive the ends of boards, as in a ceiling, etc., called batten or cleat in the USA;dado-rail: as chair-rail above;frieze rail: rail in a panelled door corresponding to the frieze in position;hanging-rail: rail to which hinges are fixed in a door, window, etc. A rail with hinges at the side of a panelled door is a stile;lock-rail: rail in a framed door into which the lock is fitted, usually corresponding to the top of a dado;mid-rail: horizontal timber in a wall-frame placed half-way in a storey, or between a cill and a wall-plate.

Bibliography

Alcock,, Barley,, Dixon,, & and Meeson (1996);
Gwilt (1903);
W. McKay (1957)
Papworth (1887)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail

"rail." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail

rail

rail2 bar of wood, etc. fixed in a horizontal position XIII; hand-rail of a staircase XV; bar or continuous line of bars laid for wheels to run on (so railroad, railway) XVIII. ME. reyle, raile — OF. reille iron rod:- L. rēgula staff, rod, RULE.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-2

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-2

rail

rail Slender, long-legged marsh bird. Rails are shy, generally nocturnal, and often emit melodious calls. They lay 8–15 eggs in a reed-and-grass ground nest. Length: 10–45cm (4–18in). Family Rallidae. Typical genus Rallus.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rail

"rail." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rail

rail

rail1 †garment, mantle OE.; †neckerchief XV; night-rail dressing-gown XVI. OE. hræġ(e)l + OFris. (h)reil, OHG. (h)regil, of unkn. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-1

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-1

rail

rail3 bird of the family Rallidae. XV. — (O)F. râle (Norman-Picard dial. raille; AN. radle); of uncert. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-3

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-3

rail

rail4 utter abusive language. XV. — F. railler, †ragler — Pr. ralhar jest. Cf. RALLY2.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-4

"rail." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail-4

rail

railail, ale, assail, avail, bail, bale, bewail, brail, Braille, chain mail, countervail, curtail, dale, downscale, drail, dwale, entail, exhale, fail, faille, flail, frail, Gael, Gail, gale, Grail, grisaille, hail, hale, impale, jail, kale, mail, male, nail, nonpareil, outsail, pail, pale, quail, rail, sail, sale, sangrail, scale, shale, snail, stale, swale, tail, tale, they'll, trail, upscale, vail, vale, veil, wail, wale, whale, Yale •Passchendaele • Airedale •Wensleydale • Clydesdale •Chippendale • Coverdale • Abigail •galingale • martingale • nightingale •farthingale • Windscale • timescale •blackmail • airmail •email, female •Ishmael • voicemail • vermeil

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"rail." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"rail." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail

"rail." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved November 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rail