In Tolkien's book The Hobbit, he constantly writes "round" when it seems to me as if it should be "around". Not just in one or a few places, but all the time. There is no way that this is some typo.

It was written in the 1930s in the UK. Is it possible that "round" for "around" is a British thing? Possibly archaic?

Obviously, I'm not talking about any other use of "round", or comparing the two words directly to each other in all situations. I just mean when it seems like it should be "around".

Here follow just three randomly picked examples out of countless ones:

The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another.

But we have never forgotten our stolen treasure. And even now, when I will allow we have a good bit laid by and are not so badly off”—here Thorin stroked the gold chain round his neck—“we still mean to get it back, and to bring our curses home to Smaug—if we can.

Every now and again through the night they could hear the roar of the flying dragon grow and then pass and fade, as he hunted round and round the mountain-sides.

Did Tolkien invent this? You never quite know when you read his books. Countless of the "strange" words are not found by the built-in word book inside of my PocketBook device.

  • 2
    It's common informal English.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 13:07
  • 1
    As a British English speaker, I would probably say for miles around, but I find round his neck and round and round entirely natural, and certainly not archaic. Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 16:02
  • "Round and round" is also idiomatic (in many situations) in North American English, as in the children's song "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round." However, "around his neck" is far more common than "round his neck" in the US.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 1:29

1 Answer 1


Tolkien was drawing off of hundreds of years of English, specifically British English, where round is often used in places where around could be used.

For example, the first example corresponds to "round, adv. and prep.," def. 11, which was first attested in the late 16th century:

  1. In the immediate vicinity; in a place or various places nearby.

1593 J. Eliot Ortho-epia Gallica i. 59 When she is mou'd, her neighbours round do find a furie fell.


1916 W. D. Howells Leatherwood God xvii. 183 There's nobody round, and if you'll hurry, nobody'll see you.

1997 E. Rutherfurd London (1998) 504 The whole house, and all the houses round, had started shaking.

Round and round also dates to the 17th century ("and turning round and round with Cuttry cooe, / As when the female Pigeon and he wooe," Michael Drayton, The Muses Elizium, 1630). Tolkien was likely aware of the folksy register (to use an originally American term) associated with round.

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