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A girl and a birch rod. Lithography by C. Hellfarth, Germany, 1837.

The term rod originally described a straight, thin, cylindrical length of wood-like plant material: lightweight and of relative stiffness. A fishing rod is a typical example. The term rod also came to be used in many other ways, such as in technical construction.

In corporal punishment contexts, a rod is a stick, a switch, or a hollow cane, but can also refer to a bundle of very thin switches or twigs, as in "a birch rod", to be used as a spanking implement.

The Latin word for rod, Ferula, gave its name to a genus of plants from which hollow light rods were made, to be used for corporal punishment and other purposes. The Romans distinguished between single, cane-like rods (ferula) and bundles of thin (e.g. birch) twigs (virga).

In other languagesEdit

The German term for rod is Rute. It has much of the same ambiguity as the English word rod. It stands usually for birch-type implements, occasionally for switches, and rarely for canes. A dog's tail is also called Rute, as is a fishing rod and an old unit of length.

See alsoEdit