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From Middle English retten, reten; perhaps from Middle Dutch r?ten, reeten (compare Middle Low German r?ten; Middle High German r?zen), or from Old Norse reyta (compare Norwegian røyta, Swedish röta); all from Proto-Germanic *rautijan? (“to make mellow or soft”), from Proto-Indo-European *rewd- (“to tear; rend; rip”). Related to rot.
- (transitive) To prepare (flax, hemp etc.) for further processing by soaking, which facilitates separation of fibers from the woody parts of the stem.