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"to soak stems of fibrous plants (flax, hemp, jute, etc.) to soften them," mid-15c., probably from Middle Dutch roten (or an unrecorded cognate Old Norse word that is related to Norwegian røyta, Swedish röta, Danish røde); considered to be related to Old English rotian "to rot" (see rot (v.)), but the vowel is difficult.
process employing the action of bacteria and moisture on plants to dissolve or rot away much of the cellular tissues and gummy substances surrounding bast-fibre bundles, thus facilitating separation of the fibre from the stem. Basic methods include dew retting and water retting.