Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension: learn by rote.
  • n. Mechanical routine.
  • n. The sound of surf breaking on the shore.
  • n. A medieval stringed instrument variably identified with a lyre, lute, or harp.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The process of learning or committing something to memory through mechanical repetition, usually by hearing and repeating aloud, often without full attention to comprehension or thought for the meaning.
  • n. Mechanical routine; a fixed, habitual, repetitive, or mechanical course of procedure.
  • adj. By repetition or practice.
  • v. To go out by rotation or succession; to rotate.
  • n. The roar of the surf; the sound of waves breaking on the shore.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A root.
  • n. A kind of guitar, the notes of which were produced by a small wheel or wheel-like arrangement; an instrument similar to the hurdy-gurdy.
  • n. The noise produced by the surf of the sea dashing upon the shore. See rut.
  • n. A frequent repetition of forms of speech without attention to the meaning; mere repetition.
  • intransitive v. To go out by rotation or succession; to rotate.
  • transitive v. To learn or repeat by rote.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To learn by rote or by heart.
  • To repeat from memory.
  • To rotate; change by rotation.
  • An obsolete dialectal form of rout.
  • A Middle English form of root.
  • n. A fixed or unchanging round, as in learning or reciting something; mechanical routine in learning, or in the repetition of that which has been learned; exact memorizing, or reproduction from memory, as of words or sounds, with or without attention to their significance: chiefly in the phrase by rote.
  • n. A part mechanically committed to memory.
  • n. A row or rank.
  • n. A musical instrument with strings, and played either by a bow, like a crowd or fiddle, or by a wheel, like a hurdy-gurdy. See crowd. Also called rota.
  • n. The sound of surf, as before a storm.
  • n. A Middle English form of root.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. memorization by repetition

Etymologies

Middle English.
Probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse rauta, to roar.
Middle English, from Old French, probably of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, origin uncertain. Likely from the phrase bi ("by") rote ("heart"), c. 1300. Some have proposed a relationship either with Old French rote/rute ("route"), or Latin rota ("wheel") (see rotary), but the OED calls both suggestions groundless. (Wiktionary)
c. 1600, from Old Norse rót ("tossing, pitching (of sea)") n., perhaps related to rauta ("to roar"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The era of photocopied vocabulary lists read by rote is thankfully over, thanks to textbooks like Compelling Conversations.

    Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics- An Engaging ESL Textbook for Advanced Students « Books « Literacy News

  • Bringing it back to Freshwater: it looks as though he was given a simplistic test scheme which he could game by playing the short-term rote memorisation card with his classes, while pandering to his own religious prejudices.

    Freshwater: The Board's rebuttal case - The Panda's Thumb

  • It had never entered my head that I had what it took to dolmetsch … While a student, I had learned the first stanza of Die Lorelei by rote from a college roommate, and I happened to give those lines a dogged rendition while working within earshot of the battalion commander …

    Humor

  • Of course, it being rote is part of the point, as Fforde's trying to deconstruct the whole genre.

    The Big Over Easy: Summary and book reviews of The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde.

  • The mentoring and the correct lesson plans will help kids learn to think rather than to recite things learned by rote, which is why kids taught at home tend to win spelling bees and geography competitions, but don't understand why creationism is not a science.

    Testy with Tester

  • The authors compared the performance of people who tried to hone a skill through "constant practice" - that is, the rote repetition of a task, like taking 100 serves across the net - and those who underwent "variable practice," in which you work on a mix of skills during a training session.

    TIME.com: Top Stories

  • The rote was a technical one, with stony tracks followed by coastal trails requiring strong navigation skills to avoid the many tracks heading towards the sea.

    Crash.Net Motorsports Newsfeed

  • This resistance to change is certainly not unique to the Chinese context – and the same arguments are regularly rehearsed in the British press, for example – where a return to “tried and tested” traditional educational values, such as rote learning and drilling, is frequently urged by such “experts” as the heir to the British throne.

    R is for Reticence « An A-Z of ELT

  • Notice what the young child's intonation on certain lines reveals: he hasn't learned this poem "without thought of the meaning; in a mechanical way" -- Random House's definition of "rote" learning.

    Justin Snider: Rote Memorization: Overrated or Underrated?

  • Because "rote" learning and "memorization" have negative connotations for most people, it might be better to speak of learning things by heart.

    Justin Snider: Rote Memorization: Overrated or Underrated?

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Comments

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  • "Lord, hear the great breakers!" exclaimed Mrs. Todd. "How they pound!—there, there! I always run of an idea that the sea knows anger these nights and gets full o' fight. I can hear the rote o' them old black ledges way down the thoroughfare.
    --Sarah Orne Jewett, 1900, The Foreigner

    January 28, 2010