Take a Word.... Round: Definition, Etymology; Story, Poems and Further Uses
It comes from the Middle English, itself from the Old French stem round-, and formerly from a variant of Latin rotundus ‘rotund’, meaning ‘round’.
Most usually, a coin is round, a clock face is round, a compass is round, a tub is round - you can think of many more examples. Look around you, then listen out for the word 'round' in conversations. Be aware of the use of words!
Round & Round the Garden
There are various wordings for this children’s game. The rhyme was first collected in Britain in the late 1940s. As Teddy Bears did not come into vogue until the 20th century it is unlikely to be any older than that in its current form, but Iona and Peter Opie (collectors of children’s games and rhymes) speculated that it might be a version of an older rhyme, collected 1945-9, ‘Round about there, went a little hare’.
'Let's Go Round to Grandma's': a Story
‘Let’s go round to Grandma’s!’ said young Sarah.
She loved visiting her grandma who came round often herself to look after Sarah and her sisters. Grandma was fun and loving and lived just round the corner.
She’d always put her arm round you if you were upset or had hurt yourself. She never failed to have a game or a song, like ‘Round and round the garden’ for the littlest one. At the mention of the word ‘round’, Sofie, Sarah’s younger sister, would hold out her hand, to be circled in the palm by a finger:
‘Round and round the garden,
Like a teddy-bear,
One step (tickling the wrist), two step (tickling the crook of the elbow),
Tickly under there!’ (tickling under the arm or chin)
Sofie, first round-eyed in anticipation, would then giggle at each step and shriek when the gentle fingers tickled her under the chin.
‘Gain’, she’d say. So Grandma would duly comply. Indeed it was impossible not to do so; Sofie could twist her Grandma round her little finger.
A Round of Toast
At breakfast time, Sofie sometimes had toast.
‘Shall we have one round or two?’ Grandma would ask, holding up one slice, then two.
‘One, two, three, four, five,’ said Sofie, showing with pride how far she could count, her little round cheeks dimpling with charm!
They would play games, the ones Sarah had loved at that age.
‘Let’s dress up! Here’s a hat and a coat.’ She would deliberately put the hat on over Sofie’s eyes, then put the coat on the wrong way round.
‘Silly Grandma!’ said Sofie.
Roundabouts & Round-to-it
A trip to the park was often on the cards. Great fun was had on the swings.
‘Higher, higher!’ said Sarah - then the slides; a high one for Sarah and a safe, small one for Sofie. Then the roundabout., the sort with a running board and a higher area to sit.
It always reminded Grandma of a large round Camembert with wedges as the seating section. It wasn’t as safe as the swings, so Grandma would sit on it with Sofie after pushing as fast as her lungs could manage! Grandma’s rule? Always go back the other way round to avoid dizziness! She’d stagger around clutching her head as they laughed.
There were times when someone felt ill or there was an argument though that was rare. In any event, Grandma would turn it round to make everything better and divert their minds to something exciting. She’d always rally round should anything go wrong or if her girls needed help in an emergency.
‘Grandma, have you found my hairband yet?’ asked Sarah. It was one which had been left at the house.
‘Oh, I keep meaning to get round to it, then I do something else and forget!’
‘Silly Grandma,’ said Sarah.
Family Coming Round
Of course, there was usually a bag of sweets or biscuits as a treat. The girls were good at sharing and didn't need telling to pass them round. Sarah and her cousin Alfie were roundabout the same age and Alfie’s younger brother Jack was only a year older than Sofie. They all came round often. A great favourite with them all were Grandma’s round ginger biscuits.
‘Not too many, now,’ said Grandma, ‘or you’ll all be as round as they are!’
Then there was the girls’ older sister, Susan, mature for her 16 years, a well-rounded character and a good all-rounder at school. She was brilliant with the younger ones, always had solutions which worked well all round.
Susan had finished school, was going on to college, ready to study. She loved sports - rounders, badminton, tennis, even a round of golf - much to her Grandma’s delight. Soon would be the driving lessons; she longed to be out on the road, negotiating junctions, roundabouts, parking. Turning round in the middle of the road was a bit daunting but she’d keep calm and exude confidence.
What made Grandma really happy was that Susan was still more than willing to share her company. They had many a laugh and teased each other.
Game of Rounders
Looking to the Future
Susan had been bullied at school; others had rounded on her both verbally and physically but she never retaliated unless pushed to the limits. She recognised the importance of hard work.
Grandma hoped she’d meet an all-round nice guy to share her life with. She could imagine her teaching (already her chosen profession), helping the youngsters, doing the rounds of the classroom, making sure all her charges were happy and learning well.
At the end of the day the girls would go back with Mum, and Grandma would smile at the memories of the hours with them all.
‘Long may it continue’ she thought, wondering if they'd get tired of visiting one day.
'Silly old Grandma,' she said to herself, looking forward to the next time they said,
‘Let’s go round to Grandma’s!’
Circles, Sums, Snags & Sheep
A circle, that’s round!
Go round the world;
see all the sights
before you unfurled!
We round up or round down
the numbers we count.
We round off the edges
which snag or stick out.
The sheepdog is nimble,
he rounds up the ewes,
when they want to wander
gives his point of view.
Round the Houses for a Round of Beer (or more!)
All round the houses,
the thieves led the hounds,
but they were all caught
by folks crowding round.
And Tom round the houses
his best friend did lead,
promising a fortune
in exchange for the keys.
But good Peter realised
‘fore it was too late
and gave Tom a clip
round the ear and a plate
right down on his head,
which made Tom so mad
he went round the bend
and good Pete was real sad.
‘Tell you what,’ Peter said,
‘You buy me a round
and forget all about it.’
Indeed, both were found
asleep in the gutter
from nine rounds of beer
and neither knew how
they had come to be there!
Round Plate & a Round of Beer
Many games have 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds, if not more, such as boxing, football matches and cards.
If you are clearly spoken, you have rounded pronunciation. If you speak frankly, you speak roundly.
If you are a social animal then you do the rounds, going round to visit or talk to everyone in your neighbourhood, or at a party.
A carpenter would create a rounded piece of wood, smoothing it to a circular shape for a newel post or a bowling ball for skittles.
Someone going shooting would need a round of ammunition, a certain amount needed for one shot or blast, from a gun or a cannon.
Singing in the Round
A round (also called a perpetual canon or infinite canon) is a musical composition in which a minimum of three voices sing exactly the same melody at the unison, and may continue repeating it indefinitely, but with each voice beginning at different times, so that different parts of the melody coincide in the different voices, whilst still harmonising. It is one of the easiest forms of part singing and is part of a popular musical tradition.
The earliest known rounds date from the 12th century. Though not all rounds are nursery rhymes, ‘Row, row, row your Boat’ is a well-known children’s round for four voices. Others are ‘Frère Jacques’ and ‘Three Blind Mice’.
Theatre in the Round
This is a form of theatrical presentation in which the audience is seated in a circle around the stage or on at least three of its sides.
It was common in ancient theatre, particularly that of Greece and Rome but was not widely explored again until the latter half of the 20th century.
Several theatres in England are well-known for their theatre in the round, such as Manchester Exchange and Chichester Festival Theatre.
To me, a Round Robin is a letter, usually at Christmas time, received respectively from several friends, to let everyone know their annual news without having to write a separate correspondence to each person. I don’t mind them from friends but I’m not so keen on any from family as I prefer things to be personal. I always take the time to give individuals my attention so I expect the same in return, but that’s just my personal view.
The term can also refer to the name given by seamen to an instrument on which they sign their names round a circle to present a petition, the circular form preventing the ring-leader being discovered should it be found. This could be derived from the French ‘rond rouban’, a similar form of petition, where the names were written on a circle of ribbon.
Yet another meaning is a tournament in which each contestant plays each of the others, such as in a betting context.
The variety of contexts in which the term has been used seems to contradict it being derived from the roundness of robins. It is more likely that 'Robin' was attached to 'round' just as a pleasant-sounding alliteration.
Real Round Robin!
'The World is Round......'
There is a game I love playing with a group of children. It's a test of observation.
You sit in a circle and you start by holding a stick/baton of your choice in your hand and you recite the following whilst drawing in the air whatever presentation of the words you prefer:
'The world is round, it has two eyes, a nose and a mouth.'
Having drawn the 'air picture' you then pass the stick on to your left, with your left hand, and ask the next child (or adult!) to repeat what you've done. You tell them they're right or wrong and keep going until there is only one other person left, who is the winner.
It doesn't matter how they draw the picture. However, they must pass on the baton with the left hand! The puzzled looks on their faces, as to why one is right and another is wrong, is amusing but it's great when a child realises what's going on; truly great observation.
The Windmills of Your Mind
Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning
Running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind
Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping... (refrain)
The Origins of the Song
This song refers to many things round, especially in connection with movement; circles, spiral, wheels and windmills; snowballs, balloons, rings and the moon. It has a haunting quality, lost in someone's mind.
The music was written by French composer Michel Legrand and the English lyrics written by Americans Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. The melody was adopted from the first two opening measures of Mozart's Second movement of his "Symphonie Concertante". The song (with the English lyrics) was introduced in the film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ (1968), sung by Noel Harrison (son of Rex Harrison of My Fair Lady fame). As far as I know it was his only hit, probably because of the film (starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway) and the fact that it had such a haunting quality.
The film included mind games with chess along with the challenge of one trying to outwit the other in respect of an intricate crime. I loved the film.
Round Watch Face
You'll Have More Expressions of Your Own
Let me know your 'round' expressions. There are many I've missed out so I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
In the meantime, enjoy choosing your words carefully and always listen out for new ones!
Round & Round We Go
Have you been round the world?
© 2017 Ann Carr