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Probably from Old English ārlōc, equivalent to oar + lock.



rowlock (plural rowlocks)

  1. (nautical, chiefly Britain) a pivot attached to the gunwale (outrigger in a sport boat) of a boat that supports and guides an oar, and provides a fulcrum for rowing; an oarlock (mostly US).
    • 1884, Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter VII
      I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going to unhitch and start when I heard a sound away over the water. I listened. Pretty soon I made it out. It was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from oars working in rowlocks when it's a still night.
    • 1951', C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, Collins, 1998, Chapter 8,
      Everything smelled salt and there was no noise except the swishing of water and the clop-clop of water against the sides and the splash of the oars and the jolting noise of the rowlocks.
    Synonyms: oarlock, thole, tholepin, thowel