rowel

noun
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

rowel

verb
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?

Verb

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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rowel

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rowel

Time Traveler for rowel

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about rowel

Statistics for rowel

Cite this Entry

“Rowel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rowel. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

Comments on rowel

What made you want to look up rowel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!