Middle English rod, rodde, "a stick of wood," especially a straight cutting from a woody plant, stripped of twigs, and having a particular purpose" (walking stick, wand of office, instrument of punishment), from Old English rodd "a rod, pole," which is probably cognate with Old Norse rudda "club," from Proto-Germanic *rudd- "stick, club," from PIE *reudh- "to clear land." Other sources formerly consider it to correspond to the continental words under rood.
As a long, tapering elastic pole for fishing, from mid-15c. Figurative sense of "offshoot" (mid-15c.) led to Biblical meaning "scion, tribe." As an instrument of punishment, attested from mid-12c.; also used figuratively for "any sort of correction or punishment" (14c.). In mechanics, "any bar slender in proportion to its length" (1728).
As a unit of linear measure (5½ yards or 16½ feet, also called perch or pole) attested from late 14c., from the pole used to mark it off. As a measure of land area, "a square perch," from late 14c., the usual measure in brickwork. Meaning "light-sensitive cell in a retina" is by 1837, so-called for their shape. Slang meaning "penis" is recorded from 1902; that of "handgun, pistol, revolver" is by 1903.
1757, "a rod used in ramming" (the charge of a gun or other firearm), from ram (v.) + rod (n.). Used figuratively for straightness or stiffness by 1939; also figurative of formality or primness (ramroddy, 1886). The verb in the figurative meaning "to force or drive as with a ramrod" is by 1948. Related: Ramrodded; ramrodding.
Middle English rode, "a cross; a crucifix," especially a large one, from Old English rod "cross," especially that upon which Christ suffered, from Proto-Germanic *rod- (source also of Old Saxon ruoda "stake, pile, cross," Old Norse roða, Old Frisian rode, Middle Dutch roede, Old High German ruota, German Rute "rod, pole"), which is of uncertain origin. Perhaps it shares a PIE root with Latin ratis "raft," retae "trees standing on the bank of a stream;" Old Church Slavonic ratiste "spear, staff;" Lithuanian reklės "scaffolding," but de Vaan is doubtful. Probably not connected with rod.
Also in Old English "a pole;" and in Middle English also a local measure varying from 6 to 8 yards and a square measure of land.
1640s, "dowsing, use of a divining rod" (especially to find things hidden in the earth, ores or underground water), with -mancy "divination by means of" (from Greek manteia "divination, oracle") + Greek rhabdos "rod, wand; magic wand; fishing rod; spear-shaft; a staff of office; a rod for chastisement; twig, stick." Greek rhabdos is from PIE *wer- (2), base of roots meaning "to turn, bend" (source also of Lithuanian virbas "twig, branch, scion, rod," Latin verbena "leaves and branches of laurel").
The Greek noun was used to represent Roman fasces. Related: Rhabdomantic; rhabdomancer.
"rod or pole on which a bird alights and rests," late 13c., originally only "a pole, rod, stick, stake," from Old French perche "unit of linear measurement" (5.5 yards), also "measuring rod, pole, bar" used to measure this length (13c.), from Latin pertica "pole, long staff, measuring rod," which is related to Oscan perek "pole," Umbrian perkaf "twigs, rods." Meaning "a bar fixed horizontally for a hawk or tame bird to rest on" is attested from late 14c.; this led to the general sense of "any thing that any bird alights or rests on" (late 15c.). Figurative sense of "an elevated or secure position" is recorded from 1520s.
"measure of land equal to a square lineal perch" (usually 160 to the acre), late 14c., earlier "land-measuring rod" (c. 1300), from Old French perche "unit of linear measurement" (5.5 yards), also "measuring rod, pole, bar" used to measure this length (13c.), from Latin pertica "pole, long staff, measuring rod," which is related to Oscan perek "pole," Umbrian perkaf "twigs, rods." The same word as perch (n.1).