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From Middle English whele, from Old English hwēol, from Proto-Germanic *hwehwlą, *hweulō (compare West Frisian tsjil, Dutch wiel, Danish hjul), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷekʷlóm, *kʷékʷlos, *kʷékʷléh₂ (compare Tocharian B kokale (cart, wagon), Ancient Greek κύκλος (kúklos, cycle, wheel), Avestan 𐬗𐬀𐬑𐬭𐬀(caxra), Sanskrit चक्र (cakrá)), reduplication of *kʷel- (to turn) and a suffix (literally "(the thing that) turns and turns"; compare Latin colō (to till, cultivate), Tocharian A and Tocharian B käl- (to bear; bring), Ancient Greek πέλω (pélō, to come into existence, become), Old Church Slavonic коло (kolo, wheel), Albanian sjell (to bring, carry, turn around), Avestan 𐬗𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬌𐬙𐬌(caraiti, it circulates), Sanskrit चरति (cárati, it moves, wanders)). Doublet of charkha, cycle, and chakra.



A wheel on a car
Painting of a wheel (instrument of torture)
Wheels of cheese (gouda)
In heraldry, wheels are often (not always) depicted with six spokes.

wheel (plural wheels)

  1. A circular device capable of rotating on its axis, facilitating movement or transportation or performing labour in machines.
    • 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 5, in A Cuckoo in the Nest:
      The departure was not unduly prolonged. [] Within the door Mrs. Spoker hastily imparted to Mrs. Love a few final sentiments on the subject of Divine Intention in the disposition of buckets; farewells and last commiserations; a deep, guttural instigation to the horse; and the wheels of the waggonette crunched heavily away into obscurity.
    1. (informal, with "the") A steering wheel and its implied control of a vehicle.
    2. (nautical) The instrument attached to the rudder by which a vessel is steered.
    3. A spinning wheel.
    4. A potter's wheel.
  2. The breaking wheel, an old instrument of torture.
  3. (slang) A person with a great deal of power or influence; a big wheel.
    1. (computing, dated) A superuser on certain systems.
  4. (poker slang) The lowest straight in poker: ace, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  5. (automotive) A wheelrim.
  6. A round portion of cheese.
  7. A Catherine wheel firework.
  8. (obsolete) A rolling or revolving body; anything of a circular form; a disk; an orb.
  9. A turn or revolution; rotation; compass.
  10. (figuratively) A recurring or cyclical course of events.
    the wheel of life
    • 1692–1717, Robert South, Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), 6th edition, London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, OCLC 21766567:
      According to the common vicissitude and wheel of things, the proud and the insolent, after long trampling upon others, come at length to be trampled upon themselves.
  11. (slang, archaic) A dollar.
  12. (UK, slang, archaic) A crown coin; a "cartwheel".
  13. (archaic, informal) A bicycle or tricycle.
    • 1927 March, Popular Science (page 22)
      There was no vehicle of any sort, on land or water, in those days, that could go as fast as a bicycle, except a railroad train. [] Hammondsport and Glenn Curtiss had never even heard of the not yet quite born automobile. But Glenn Curtiss could push his "wheel," with those long legs of his, uphill, downhill or on the level, faster than any other boy in Hammondsport.
  14. A manoeuvre in marching in which the marchers turn in a curving fashion to right or left so that the order of marchers does not change.


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wheel (third-person singular simple present wheels, present participle wheeling, simple past and past participle wheeled)

  1. (transitive) To roll along on wheels.
    Wheel that trolley over here, would you?
    • 1841, “Parliamentary Masons.—Parliamentary Pictures,” Punch, Volume I, p. 162,[1]
      Why should we confine a body of men to making laws, when so many of them might be more usefully employed in wheeling barrows?
    • 1850, Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, Chapter 28,[2]
      He [] cleared the table; piled everything on the dumb-waiter; gave us our wine-glasses; and, of his own accord, wheeled the dumb-waiter into the pantry.
    • 1916, H. G. Wells, Mr. Britling Sees It Through, Book I, Chapter 1, § 9,[3]
      But two cheerful women servants appeared from what was presumably the kitchen direction, wheeling a curious wicker erection, which his small guide informed him was called Aunt Clatter—manifestly deservedly—and which bore on its shelves the substance of the meal.
  2. (transitive) To transport something or someone using any wheeled mechanism, such as a wheelchair.
    • 1916, Robert Frost, “A Girl’s Garden” in Mountain Interval, New York: Henry Holt & Co., p. 61,[4]
      She wheeled the dung in the wheelbarrow
      Along a stretch of road;
      But she always ran away and left
      Her not-nice load,
    • 1924, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Mother Mason, Chapter 3,[5]
      Bob was wheeling the baby up and down, Mabel watching him, hawk-eyed, as though she suspected him of harboring intentions of tipping the cab over.
    • 2017 February 23, Katie Rife, “The Girl With All The Gifts tries to put a fresh spin on overripe zombie clichés”, in The Onion AV Club[6]:
      We open in a grimy, fluorescent-lit military base somewhere in rural England, where the girl from the poster, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), is the star student in a class full of children who are wheeled into school—or at least, the nondescript concrete room that serves as a school—with their arms, legs, and foreheads bound to their wheelchairs by leather straps.
  3. (intransitive, dated) To ride a bicycle or tricycle.
  4. (intransitive) To change direction quickly, turn, pivot, whirl, wheel around.
    • c. 1603–1604, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene 1]:
      Your daughter, if you have not given her leave,
      I say again, hath made a gross revolt;
      Tying her duty, beauty, wit and fortunes
      In an extravagant and wheeling stranger
      Of here and every where.
    • 1898, Stephen Crane, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky[7]
      The dog screamed, and, wheeling in terror, galloped headlong in a new direction.
    • 1912, James Stephens, The Charwoman’s Daughter, Chapter 8,[8]
      The gulls in the river were flying in long, lazy curves, dipping down to the water, skimming it an instant, and then wheeling up again with easy, slanting wings.
    • 1917, A. E. W. Mason, The Affair at the Semiramis Hotel, Chapter 3,[9]
      But before he could move a step a taxi-cab turned into the Adelphi from the Strand, and wheeling in front of their faces, stopped at Calladine's door.
    • 1922, T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Introduction, Chapter 5,[10]
      Enver, Jemal and Feisal watched the troops wheeling and turning in the dusty plain outside the city gate, rushing up and down in mimic camel-battle, or spurring their horses in the javelin game after immemorial Arab fashion.
  5. (transitive) To cause to change direction quickly, turn.
    • 1898, Samuel Butler, The Iliad of Homer, Rendered into English Prose, Book 17,[11]
      [] he did as Menelaus had said, and set off running as soon as he had given his armour to a comrade, Laodocus, who was wheeling his horses round, close beside him.
    • 1931, Robert E. Howard, Hawks of Outremer, Chapter 2,[12]
      Then wheeling his black steed suddenly, he raced away before the dazed soldiers could get their wits together to send a shower of arrows after him.
  6. (intransitive) To travel around in large circles, particularly in the air.
    The vulture wheeled above us.
    • 1829, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Timbuctoo,” lines 63-67,[13]
      [] Each aloft
      Upon his narrowed eminence bore globes
      Of wheeling suns, or stars, or semblances
      Of either, showering circular abyss
      Of radiance.
    • 1917 November, W[illiam] B[utler] Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”, in The Wild Swans at Coole, Other Verses an a Play in Verse, Churchtown, Dundrum [Dublin]: The Cuala Press, OCLC 4474827, page 1:
      The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me / Since I first made my count. / I saw, before I had well finished, / All suddenly mount / And scatter wheeling in great broken rings / Upon their clamorous wings.
    • 1933, Robert Byron, First Russia, Then Tibet, Part II, Chapter 8,[14]
      We could see the poor brute in the bottom, as the vultures came wheeling down like baroque aeroplanes; its ribs were already bare.
    • 2014 September 7, Natalie Angier, “The Moon comes around again [print version: Revisiting a moon that still has secrets to reveal: Supermoon revives interest in its violent origins and hidden face, International New York Times, 10 September 2014, p. 8]”, in The New York Times[15]:
      As the moon wheels around Earth every 28 days and shows us a progressively greater and then stingier slice of its sun-lightened face, the distance between the moon and Earth changes, too. At the nearest point along its egg-shaped orbit, its perigee, the moon may be 26,000 miles closer to us than it is at its far point.
  7. (transitive) To put into a rotatory motion; to cause to turn or revolve; to make or perform in a circle.

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Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of whele (wheel)