The wheelhouse (sense 1.1) of a car is the partially enclosed structure above and around a wheel
The wheelhouse (sense 1.2) of the Vieux Crabe, a sailboat moored at Agde in Hérault, Occitanie, France
The interior of the wheelhouse (sense 1.2) of the Arthur Foss, thought to be the oldest wooden tugboat in the world still afloat. It is now preserved as a museum ship in Seattle, Washington, USA.
The paddlewheel of this steamboat, the Klondike Spirit based at Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, is enclosed in a wheelhouse (sense 1.3)
The remains of a wheelhouse (sense 2) in Jarlshof, a prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland, Scotland, UK

From wheel +‎ house. Sense 3 (“(baseball) a pitch location which is favourable to the hitter”) references the fact that a vessel is controlled from its wheelhouse (sense 1.2), and sense 4 (“a person’s area of authority or expertise”) is a figurative use of sense 2.[1]



wheelhouse (plural wheelhouses)

  1. A building or other structure containing a (large) wheel, such as the water wheel of a mill.
    • 1835 February, “Brick Machine”, in New-York Farmer, and American Gardener’s Magazine, volume III (New Series; volumne VIII overall), number 2, New York, N.Y.: Published by the proprietor, D. K. Minor, [], OCLC 7527228, page 47, column 2:
      A machine with two pair of moulds only, will make from fifty to seventy thousand bricks per week. But if the regular market be large, it can, by using a steam machine of 10 horse power, work sixteen moulds, (four on each side of the wheel house,) and make two hundred thousand bricks per week.
    • 1877, David Craik, “Grist-mills”, in The Practical American Millwright and Miller: Comprising the Elementary Principles of Mechanics Mechanism, and Motive Power, [], Philadelphia, Pa.: Henry Carey Baird & Co., []; London: Sampson Low, Son & Marston, OCLC 39948386, page 265:
      The mill was driven by an overshot wheel twenty-seven and a half feet in diameter, placed in a separate wheel-house, built of stone, between the mill and a bank thirty feet high, upon which the water was brought by a canal.
    1. The partially enclosed structure above and around a wheel of an automobile, typically partly formed by a portion of a fender panel that has been extended outward beyond the plane of the rest of the panel.
      Synonyms: wheel arch, wheel well
      • 1878 June 13, Edwin R. Wheeler, Improvement in Vehicle-spring Braces[1], US Patent 205,594, column 1:
        This invention relates to an improved device for hanging the body of carriages having a so-called "cut-under" or wheel-house, such as a common rockaway, extension-top phaeton, coupé-rockaway, &c., [...]
        Applied to a horse-drawn carriage.
      • 1990, Tom Currao; Ron Sessions, “Body Repair”, in Camaro Restoration Handbook: Ground-up or Sectional Restoration Tips & Techniques for 1967 to 1981 Camaros. All Models Included, New York, N.Y.: HPBooks, Berkley Publishing Group, →ISBN, image caption, page 97, column 1:
        To install a new outer wheelhouse in a convertible, measure (at 1-in. intervals) the distance from the reinforcement that runs along the top of the old wheelhouse to the flange where the inner and outer wheelhouses are joined. Then transfer these measurements onto the new wheelhouse.
    2. An enclosed compartment on the deck of a vessel such as a fishing boat, originally housing its helm or steering wheel, from which it may be navigated; on a larger vessel it is the bridge.
      Synonym: pilothouse
      • 1835, “Explosion of the Steam-boat New-England, at Essex, Connecticut River, October 9th, 1833”, in The Mariners’ Chronicle: Containing Narratives of the Most Remarkable Disasters at Sea, [], New Haven, Conn.: Published by George W. Gorton, OCLC 7407361, page 471:
        Captain Waterman was on the wheel-house at the time of the explosion, attending to the landing of passengers from the small boat. He noticed a movement over the boilers, and immediately jumped or was thrown upon the forward deck. He was somewhat bruised, but not seriously injured.
      • 1855, Jacob Abbott, “Parallax”, in Rollo’s Philosophy. [Sky.] (The Rollo Series), new revised edition, New York, N.Y.: Thomas Y[oung] Crowell & Co., OCLC 4274665, page 164:
        The wheel-house is a small room or closet, with windows in front, built on the deck, in the forward part of the boat, where the helmsman stands to steer. The windows in the front of the wheel-house are for him to look out, and see where he is going. [...] There is a large wheel in this place, which is the reason why they call it the wheel-house. The wheel has handles to it, all around, for the man to take hold of, to turn the wheel one way or the other.
      • 1894 September 22, Norman L. Latson, witness, “[Appendix I: Foreign Relations of the United States: 1894. Mosquito Territory.] Affidavit of N. L. Latson”, in The Executive Documents of the House of Representatives for the Third Session of the Fifty-third Congress. 1894–95. In Thirty-five Volumes, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, published 1895, OCLC 156782073, page 345:
        Affiant further states that thereupon Judge-Advocate Portocarrero, closely followed by Minister Madriz, rushed into the wheelhouse of the steamship Yulu. They were both white with anger, and Portocarrero had in his right hand, with his finger on the spring, a clasp knife with a blade about 8 inches long.
      • 1897 December 18, Martin Barstad, witness, “Evidence for the Government”, in John Andersen, Plaintiff in Error, vs. The United States: In Error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Virginia: Transcript of Record (Supreme Court of the United States (October Term, 1897); no. 583), published 14 February 1898, page 16:
        I last saw William Saunders, the mate of the said vessel, alive on the morning of August the 6th, 1897, on the left side of the forecastle head of that vessel. It was between nine and ten o'clock of that morning. He was shot at that time and place by John Andersen, the cook of the vessel and the prisoner here. I saw him shoot him. I was at the wheel of the vessel, in the wheelhouse, just aft of the aftercabin.
      • 1957, John Cheever, chapter 11, in The Wapshot Chronicle, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, OCLC 851161359; republished London: Vintage Books, 1998, →ISBN, page 78:
        Early the next morning Leander walked down the fish-smelling path to the wharf where the Topaze lay. A dozen passengers were waiting to buy their tickets and go aboard. Then he noticed a sign had been hung on his wheelhouse. [...] no trespassing, it said. this yacht for sale. for further information see honora wapshot 27 boat street.
      • 1989 August 17, Tom Clancy, “The King of Sar”, in Clear and Present Danger, New York, N.Y.: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons, →ISBN; Berkley premium tie-in edition, New York, N.Y.: Berkley Books, November 2018, →ISBN, page 28:
        He looked aft just before going back into the wheelhouse.
    3. The enclosed structure around the paddlewheel of a steamboat.
      Synonym: paddle box
      • 1840, P[aul] R[apsey] Hodge, “Part VI. Description of Plates.”, in The Steam Engine, Its Origin and Gradual Improvement, from the Time of Hero to the Present Day; as Adapted to Manufactures, Locomotion and Navigation. [], New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Co., [], OCLC 726751258, page 225:
        PLATE XXVII.—Details of the Paddle Wheel of the Steamboat "North America." Fig. 1, shows the outside framing of the paddle-box, or as it is frequently termed, the wheel-house; also an elevation of the paddle-wheel, shewing the arrangement of the buckets, arms, centre-plate, &c.
      • 1843 April, James K[irke] Paulding, “The Mississippi”, in George R[ex] Graham and Rufus W[ilmot] Griswold, editors, Graham’s Magazine of Literature and Art, volume XXII, number 4, Philadelphia, Pa.: George R. Graham, [], OCLC 426033873, page 218, column 1:
        These little rooms have each a half glass door, which opens on a gallery running all round the boat, with only the interruption of the wheel-houses, outside of which is a door of Venetian blinds, which being thrown open, you can sit in your room and see every object on one side of the river.
      • 1845 April 23, “The Gale”, in E. Meriam, editor, New York Municipal Gazette, volume I, number 33, New York, N.Y.: Published by the Anti-assessment Committee, OCLC 12891070, page 474, column 3:
        The Eureka broke an arm in her larboard wheel[-]house with a tremendous crash, tearing the whole structure away. She crawled back to the city to refit.—Journal Com. April 10.
  2. (archaeology) A prehistoric structure from the Iron Age found in Scotland, characteristically including an outer wall within which a circle of stone piers (resembling the spokes of a wheel) form the basis for lintel arches supporting corbelled roofing with a hearth at the hub.
    • 1982, Peter Somerset Fry; Fiona Somerset Fry, “Celts, Caledonians and Romans (first century BC–fifth century AD)”, in The History of Scotland, London; New York, N.Y.: Routledge & Kegan Paul, →ISBN; republished Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005, →ISBN, page 16:
      Most Celtic houses in Britain were simply constructed. They were generally round as in the remains of the house at Little Woodbury in Wiltshire, the wheelhouse at Jarlshof in Shetland, or the house on an unenclosed platform at Greenknowe in Berwickshire. [...] The roof of the Greenknowe house was conical. It had rafters fanning outwards from a high top, like the spokes of an umbrella. You can see why it is called a wheelhouse. The rafters were held at their lower ends on a horizontal ring of timber that rested on vertical posts with Y-shaped tops.
    • 1986, J[ohn] R. Hunter, “Phase 1”, in I. B. M. Ralston and A. N. Shepherd, editors, Rescue Excavations on the Brough of Birsay 1974–82 (Monograph Series; no. 4), Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, →ISBN, section 2:1 (The Native Background), page 25:
      Ancestors of the historical Picts can be credited with the structural form of the wheelhouse with its western and northern affinities, and with the souterrain, and distribution and function of which is becoming clearer, but which may now be thought to have persisted in evolved form until the middle part of the first millennium AD [...].
  3. (Canada, US, baseball, by extension from sense 1.2) A pitch location which is favourable to the hitter.
    The pitch was right in his wheelhouse, and he hit a grand slam.
    • 1997, Bryan L. Jones, “Baseball”, in Mark Twain Made Me Do It & Other Plains Adventures, Lincoln, Neb.; London: University of Nebraska Press, →ISBN, page 74:
      The ball was up in my wheelhouse, and I got round on it, got the meat of that Ritchie Asbhurn bottle bat solidly on the ball. I'll never in my life hit a ball any better.
    • 2007, Alan Schwarz, “Ken Griffey Jr.: On Going Deep with His Father”, in Once upon a Game: Baseball’s Greatest Memories, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Company, →ISBN, page 60, column 1:
      The next pitch was close to my wheelhouse so I just let 'er rip. I got ahold of it and shot it to left field on the line.
    • 2009, Andre Agassi, Open: An Autobiography (A Borzoi Book), New York, N.Y.: Alfred A[braham] Knopf, →ISBN, page 215:
      Here is the ball, in my wheelhouse. I slide my hips out of the way, put myself in place to hit the coldie of a lifetime.
      Applied to tennis.
  4. (Canada, US, figuratively) A person's area of authority or expertise.
    Synonym: domain
    Horse viruses are in Pat’s wheelhouse.
    • 2009, Ronald Heifetz; Alexander Grashow; Marty Linsky, “Broaden Your Bandwith: Discover Your Tolerances”, in The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press, →ISBN, part 4 (See Yourself as a System), page 207:
      Turning out terrific subordinates was not in her wheelhouse. [...] But she did so, mostly by force of will and with a number of false starts and midcourse corrections, and went on to become an icon in her industry.
    • 2013, Mark L. Donald; with Scott Mactavish, “Battle of Khand Pass”, in Battle Ready: Memoir of a SEAL Warrior Medic, New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press, →ISBN, page 162:
      I watched as Vic digested the information. His career was built on analyzing intel and making tactical decisions, and this was right in his wheelhouse.
    • 2013 April 4, Patti Wollman Summers; Ann DeSollar-Hale; Heather Ibrahim-Leathers, “Anatomy of an App”, in Toddlers on Technology: A Parents’ Guide, Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, →ISBN, page 23:
      If an app is entertaining, and especially if it contains age-appropriate humor, that increases its appeal. You just need to keep the learning in a Digitod's [i.e., a digital toddler's] wheelhouse (for you non-baseball fans, that's his prime area of ability).
    • 2015, Dwight McNeill, “Knowing Me”, in Amy Neidlinger, editor, Using Person-centered Health Analytics to Live Longer: Leveraging Engagement, Behavior Change, and Technology for a Healthy Life, Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, →ISBN, part II (Building the Toolkit for Person-centered Health Analytics), page 172:
      Similarly, it has been beyond the scope of health care providers or other Intermediaries to address well-being. These concerns and measures are simply not in their wheelhouses and not high on their priority lists.
    • 2018 March 26, A. A. Dowd, “Steven Spielberg Finds Fun, and maybe even a Soul, in the Pandering Pastiche of Ready Player One”, in The A.V. Club[2], archived from the original on 31 May 2018:
      What the film rarely does is challenge or interrogate the fan culture to which it plays uncritical tribute. Wade and his friends, including a trigger-happy cyborgian alpha nerd whose offline identity the film handles more tastefully than the book did, are possessive gatekeepers, viciously protective of their pop-culture wheelhouse.

Alternative formsEdit



  1. ^ Compare “wheel-house, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1923.

Further readingEdit