Where does the term “roué” come from and What does roue mean in French?

Back in the days when criminals, real or fancied, were punished by being put to torture, the French word roue (no accent mark), meaning “wheel,” and derived from the Latin rota, came to have the special meaning “torture wheel.”

From this, in turn, was coined the verb rouer, “to torture ( break) on the wheel.”

Now the Duke of Orleans, about 250 years ago, was rather a disreputable rake-hell, and surrounded himself with companions of the same ilk.

Of these, it was said that they were roués (note accent mark), “men deserving to be broken on the wheel.”

And the term is still applied to one who is a dissolute wastrel.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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