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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 languages[edit]

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 also[edit]