One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Anatomy. The patella (kneecap). Now rare.
2Astronomy. A mechanical device showing the motion of the sun and moon and their position for each day of the year. More fully "astronomical rotula". Now historical.
3Zoology. A keyhole urchin or sand dollar of the West African genus Rotula (order Clypeasteroida), having a round, flattened test with deep notches along the edge. Also (in form Rotula): the genus itself.
4Each of five radial elements forming part of the oral apparatus (Aristotle's lantern) of echinoids.
5A circular structure forming the end of some sponge spicules; = "rotule". Also: a wheel-shaped spicule in the integument of certain holothurians. Now rare.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Lanfranc's Science of Cirurgie. From classical Latin rotula small wheel, in post-classical Latin also kneecap from rota wheel + -ula. Compare Middle French, French rotule, Spanish rótula, both in sense ‘kneecap’.
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