A small, low hill distinctive for its round shape is a knoll. Knollen and Knolle in German, and knolle in Dutch, mean, variously, “clod,” “ball,” “turnip,” “lump,” and “knot.” A knoll is usually something that can be walked around, like a hillock or mound, and is self-contained and singular, rising out of a flat landscape such as a plain or situated on a plateau or mesa. Along with glen, dale, dell, and ridge, to name a few, it has suffered debasement at the hands of developers who christen their communities with names such as Wood Knolls, Lake Knolls, or, more pretentiously, The Knolls. Similarly, a knoll is a poeticized hill, as in Wordsworth’s “rocky knoll,” although Robert Frost gets it right in “The Cow in Apple Time” when he writes, “She bellows on a knoll against the sky.” The most famous knoll in America is the “grassy knoll” of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, from which it was initially thought the shots were fired that killed President John F. Kennedy.

Michael Collier