Printable Version
Pronunciation: rawnd-heel Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (US Slang) A pushover, softie, an inept person, easily persuaded, outwitted, or overpowered.

Notes: Here is a US slang expression found only in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and a few British dictionaries. The Oxford dictionary has it well-documented from 1923 to 2009. We haven't decided how to spell it: two words (round heel), hyphenated (round-heel, or one word (as above)? It is often used in the plural referring to one person, a 'little miss roundheels'. The adjective is roundheeled.

In Play: The general meaning of today's word is "pushover": "Clay Potts is such a roundheel for blondes, he'll do whatever they tell him to do." When applied to women, it usually implies sexual promiscuity: "Carmen Ghia is a roundheel specializing in older men of questionable sexuality."

Word History: This word entered English around the 1920s from boxing slang. A fighter with round heels was one his opponent could easily knock down. Round was borrowed from French rond "round", which French whittled down from Latin rotundus, the adjective for rota "wheel". German and Dutch borrowed the same word for their rund and rond, respectively. Latin got its rota from PIE ret-/rot- "to roll", source also of Sanskrit ratha- "wagon", Irish roth "wheel", Lithuanian ratas "wheel, circle, ring", and German Rad "wheel". Heel goes back to PIE kel-/kol- "prominence, hill, high", source also of English hill, Russian kholm "hill, mound", Lithuanian kelti "to raise, lift", Greek kolophon "summit", and Latin culmen "summit, top", which underlies the English borrowing culminate. (Today's rare but up-and-coming Good Word resulted from a recommendation of Professor Kyu Ho Youm, Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon.)

Dr. Goodword,

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