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A gardening trowel (2).


From Middle English trowell, trouel, truel, from Middle French truelle, from Late Latin truella, from Classical Latin trulla, the diminutive of trua (ladle). Doublet of trullo.


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  • IPA(key): /ˈtɹaʊ.əl/
  • Rhymes: -aʊəl


trowel (plural trowels)

  1. A mason’s tool, used in spreading and dressing mortar, and breaking bricks to shape them.
  2. A gardener’s tool, shaped like a scoop, used in taking up plants, stirring soil etc.
    I need to dig a hole for these begonias; would you pass me that trowel?
  3. A tool used for smoothing a mold.

Derived terms[edit]



trowel (third-person singular simple present trowels, present participle troweling or trowelling, simple past and past participle troweled or trowelled)

  1. (transitive) To apply (a substance) with a trowel.
    He troweled the coarse mix with a twist, leaving a pattern of arcs.
  2. (transitive) To pass over with a trowel.
    • 1980, Robert M. Jones, editor, Walls and Ceilings, Time-Life Books, →ISBN, page 26:
      Most finish coats are troweled smooth, but sometimes you will have to add cosmetic touches to make the patch match the surrounding plaster, texturing the surface randomly or uniformly with any of a variety of tools, ranging from sponges to special trowels.
  3. (colloquial, figurative) To apply something heavily or unsubtly.
    • 2014 July 1, Steve Rose, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: a primate scream - first look review”, in The Guardian:
      The whole Planet of the Apes set-up has been ripe for metaphor – from slavery and Afro-American revolution to European conquest of the Americas, even the war on terror. But mercifully, there's no big subtext being troweled on here.


Further reading[edit]