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1570s, from Middle French rondelet, diminutive of rondel "short poem with a refrain," literally "small circle," diminutive of Old French rond "circle, sphere," originally an adjective from roont (see round (adj.)). Spelling developed by association with lay (n.) "poem to be sung."
a poem with a refrain that recurs frequently or at fixed intervals, as in a rondel. The term is also loosely used to refer to any of the fixed forms of poetry (such as the rondeau, the rondel, and the roundel) that use refrains extensively.