round robin

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Alternative forms[edit]


1731, anglicization of French ruban rond (round ribbon), in English originally in British Royal Navy usage. Originally in sense of signing petitions in circular order so that the leaders could not be identified. Originated in 17th century France, where government officials signed petitions of grievances on ribbons, which were attached to the petition in a circle. Later adopted in the British Royal Navy, where petitions were signed with signatures arranged like spokes of a wheel.[1][2] Sense of "tournament" from 1895.[3] Unrelated to robin (red-breasted bird).


round robin (plural round robins)

  1. The part of a tournament in which every player or team competes against each of the others in turn.
  2. A petition signed in a circular fashion to disguise the order in which it was done.
    • 1731 The Gentleman's Magazine, Weekly Essays in June 1731, Craftman, Sat. June 5, No. 257, "round+robin" p. 238:
      … the Method used by Sailors when they mutiny, by signing their names in an orbicular manner, which they call a round Robin; …
  3. A letter, with copies to multiple recipients, usually at Christmastime and often enclosed with a card, giving family news of interest to the sender.
  4. (online gaming) A method of dividing loot amongst a party of players by having the game assign in turn loot to a player or an enemy corpse to loot to a player.
  5. (philately) A form of trade, wherein a stamp collector sends a packet of stamps to the next person on a list, who then takes the stamps he wants, replacing them with like-valued stamps, and then passing the packet to the next person on the list, until the packet ultimately returns to the original sender.
  6. (computing) A method of dividing labor between several similar subsystems, assigning tasks to each of them in turn in an attempt to use resources more equitably.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, (Facts on File, New York, 1997), p. 580, quoted at The Phrase Finder, "Re: Round Robin"
  2. ^ E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898, Round Robin
  3. ^ round robin” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019.