row·​el | \ ˈrau̇(-ə)l How to pronounce rowel (audio) \

Definition of rowel

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a revolving disk with sharp marginal points at the end of a spur


roweled or rowelled; roweling or rowelling

Definition of rowel (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to goad with or as if with a rowel

Did You Know?


If you've seen Western movies, you've seen rowels. The noun rowel names the circular, point-covered disk on the end of a spur that is used to urge powerful steeds to maximum speeds. But cowboys didn't invent rowels; knights in shining armor were sporting them even before the 12th century. English speakers of yore picked up the noun rowel from the Anglo-French roele, meaning "small wheel" (roele is also an ancestor of the word roulette). By the end of the 1500s, rowel was also being used as a verb for any process of prodding or goading that was as irritating as being poked in the side with a rowel.

First Known Use of rowel


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rowel


Middle English rowelle, from Anglo-French roele small wheel — more at roulette

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The first known use of rowel was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Rowel.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 12 December 2019.

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a period of high artistic development

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