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Take a Word.... Round: Definition, Etymology; Story, Poems and Further Uses

Updated on September 15, 2018
annart profile image

Ann likes to research the history of words, to experiment with them and to encourage others to use fresh words and idioms.


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 Coin

Jenny Wren on a Farthing
Jenny Wren on a Farthing | Source

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.

Cheeky Face; she loves playing games!
Cheeky Face; she loves playing games! | Source

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.

Old-fashioned Roundabout

Old-style roundabout that looks like a cheese!
Old-style roundabout that looks like a cheese! | Source

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

Ready to Hit the Ball!
Ready to Hit the Ball! | Source

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

Dinner Plate - perfect for aiming in anger - also very non-PC!
Dinner Plate - perfect for aiming in anger - also very non-PC!
Hand Pumps for Beer in a British Pub
Hand Pumps for Beer in a British Pub | Source

More Expressions

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.

Round Robin

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!

Relaxing Robin!
Relaxing Robin! | Source

'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?

See results

© 2017 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      17 months ago from SW England

      Thank you Lawrence, glad you enjoyed this.


    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      'round as a billiard ball' comes to mind.

      Enjoyed this little 'roundup' of expressions.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Thanks, Alan, for your penn'orth! Also for 'square peg in a round hole'; don't know why I missed that one!


    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      I lost track there Ann. The sentence should've been, "The Bo'sun threw a cask of water over the drunken sailor under the tavern table, to bring him round".

      Thought of another few just now: "A square peg in a round hole", "He rounded on the aggressor..." and "King Arthur's Round Table".

      And that's rounded off my penn'orth.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      S Maree: What a lovely comment! You can get information on what to do if you read the hub learning centre. If there are any particular things that you can't work out, do ask in the questions or if I can help I will - I'm not a great techy but I know my way round producing a basic hub.

      Glad England appealed to you. There are many lovely things here.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Thank you Dora! I always enjoy having fun with these words and it makes me dig into the memory for all sorts of things! Glad this brought back some good memories.


    • profile image

      S Maree 

      18 months ago

      Hello! Was surprised to see that you wish to read something I wrote. Just getting into the Hub; computers still a bit scary to me.

      I did write one article. Don't know how to add pictures or insets so it may seem a bit bland.

      Do look forward to reading your works! Visited England twice and wish I never had to leave! People, history, beauty, best bitters & doggies just about everywhere! What's not to love?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      18 months ago from The Caribbean

      Have engaged in "Round & Round the Garden" many times but not recently; a pleasurable memory. Thanks also for engaging our minds in all the other aspects of "round." Enjoyed the playful mood of your poetry.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Hi Alan! Yes, 'she'll be coming round the mountain' is a good one. I don't know the other one. Have also heard a similar version to the round tuit!

      You'll find I have mentioned 'theatre in the round'. Maybe this was too long to keep the interest going!

      Thanks for popping in, Alan. I always appreciate your comments and your input is great.


    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      How about:

      "She'll be coming round the mountain, when she comes..."

      or "The Bo'sun threw a cask of water over the drunken sailor, laid out under the tavern table".

      Around and a round...

      A variant of one of yours above, "A round tuit", as in "I'll trim the hedge when I get a round tuit", 'round tuits' being in short supply at the moment. (What is a 'round tuit'? I hear you ask - go on, ask - ever seen a square one?)

      Then there's a round of golf, all fair and square. And how about 'a theatre in the round' (where the stage is set surrounded by the audience).

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      S Maree: Thank you for reading and for your interesting contribution. We have a slightly different version of Pop goes the Weasel which doesn't include 'round'; it seems to be one of those words which has changed a lot more than others as it sped across the pond!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Thank you kindly, bill. Yes, it is strange how the same word can be used so differently but I suppose it's the way usage has evolved separately in our two countries. I find it fascinating as it makes the language all the richer.

      Doing chores when it's cool is so much better! Hope you're not too exhausted. I've had one of my girls et al down here today - always great fun but now I need a rest!

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend, bill!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Hi, Kristen! Thanks for your comments. Merry-go-round is used here as a roundabout in the playground or as a Carousel at the fair. As Bill says, meanings differ from Britain to the US.

      Thanks for stopping by.


    • profile image

      S Maree 

      18 months ago

      Round and round the mulberry bush,

      The monkey chased the weasel,

      The monkey thought 'twas all in fun. . .

      "Pop" goes the weasel!

      Penny for a spool of thread,

      Penny for a needle,

      That's the way the money goes!

      "Pop" goes the weasel!

      Greetings from the Round Barn part of Indiana (north-central)!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Really interesting! You use the word a bit differently in several of those example....roundabouts....a round of interesting to me how two countries so closely related have such different connotations of words.

      Anyway, it was lovely to find a new article by you in this morning's offerings.

      Hot weather the next two days, so I'm off to do chores so I don't sweat too much. :)


    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub Ann. Very insightful on how we use the word "round" and where it came from. There's the Merry Go Round and I'll be around off the top of my head.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Thank you very much, John. I loved the quote about the Flat Earth Society. I wonder if anyone realised!

      Hope the house is coming on well. Don't work too hard; it's important to take time out to admire it all!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Hi Eric! Great to see you and I thank you for your loyalty. You're very kind.

      Will pop over to yours soon!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Thank you for your visit, Stella. I haven't come across that rule which is strange as my 'thing' is English and grammar. Generally I think if it sounds right to you then go with it and there are so many idioms that quash that rule so I wouldn't worry about it. It also varies from British to US English.

      To me, 'around' conveys more of the idea that something is encircled or encircling or dotted about within an area, or more vague in phrases such as 'around the time of...', whereas 'round' is more specific. There are, however, many so-called authorities on grammar which differ in opinion; I go with what I was taught as well as referring to the established, reputable grammar books.

      Thanks for your input.


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      18 months ago from Queensland Australia

      It was great to see you'd published another hub in this series, Ann. One thing is for sure you will never run out of words :) I think you covered most uses of the word "round" and for the life of me, I can't think of any others. I read something funny on Facebook the other day. It said, quote," Join the 'The Flat Earth Society', we have members all around the globe."

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      18 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful as always. What a great word to think about and learn so much about from you.

    • Stella Kaye profile image

      Stella Kaye 

      18 months ago from UK

      Fascinating article. The word 'round ' has been bothering me a lot recently since I signed up for Grammarly. Apparently, I've been using it incorrectly. It seems 'round' should only be used in instances where you're describing the shape of things. In all other instances you're supposed to write 'around.' I wasn't aware of this and as a consequence, I've had to edit just about every article I've ever written that contains the word round!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      18 months ago from SW England

      Thank you, Flourish, for your kind words. I adore spending time with my grandchildren so I guess it rubs off a bit! Glad you liked this and thanks for visiting today.


    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      18 months ago from USA

      This was lovely with such diverse uses of the word. You have a remarkable way of communicating the interaction between grandmother and toddler. Very sweet.


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