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From Middle English rowel, rowell, rowelle, from Old French roel, roiele (compare modern French rouelle), from Late Latin rotella, diminutive of Latin rota (wheel).



rowel (plural rowels)

  1. The small spiked wheel on the end of a spur.
    • 1819, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, 1833, The Complete Works of Sir Walter Scott, Volume 3, page 121,
      The deep and sharp rowels with which Ivanhoe’s heels were now armed, began to make the worthy Prior repent of his courtesy, [] .
    • 1939, Henry Miller, The Cosmological Eye, page 246,
      The dry desert of my native land, her men grey and gaunt, their spines twisted, their feet shod with rowel and spur.
    • 1973, Thomas Pynchon, 2013, Gravity's Rainbow, page 892,
      The Lone Ranger will storm in at the head of a posse, rowels tearing blood from the stallion’s white hide, to find his young friend, innocent Dan, swinging from a tree limb by a broken neck.
    • 1992, Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses, page 62,
      He nodded at the Americans. Buena suerte, he said. He put the long rowels of his spurs to the horse and they moved on.
  2. A little flat ring or wheel on a horse's bit.
  3. A roll of hair, silk, etc., passed through the flesh of a horse in the manner of a seton in human surgery.



rowel (third-person singular simple present rowels, present participle roweling or rowelling, simple past and past participle roweled or rowelled)

  1. (transitive) To use a rowel on (something), especially to drain fluid.
  2. (transitive) To fit with spurs.
  3. (transitive) To apply the spur to.
    to spur a horse
  4. (transitive, figuratively) To incite; to goad.
    • 1941, Thomas Bell, Out of This Furnace, page 240,
      He would have been completely ignorant of what was going on if Frank, periodically roweled by the viciously anti-labor stand of the Pittsburgh newspapers, hadn't felt the need of an audience.