Notes: I should have known this word; I’ve read it, but my understanding was off a bit.
The word rowel means
- to goad with or as if with a pointed disk at the end of a spur
- vex, trouble
If you’ve seen a Western movie, you’ve seen a rowel; the noun is the circular point-covered disk on the end of a spur that is used to urge the horse to greater speed. However, they weren’t invented by cowboys; knights in shining armor had them before 1100. The word came from Anglo-French roele (small wheel). It became a verb in the late 1500s for any process of prodding or goading that was as irritating as being poked in the side with a rowel.
The word goes back to the mid-1300s (as a noun); late 1500s for the verb.