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Catherine wheel

a firework that revolves on a pin, making a wheel of fire or sparks; pinwheel.
Origin of Catherine wheel
1175-1225; Middle English; named after St. Catherine of Alexandria, from wheel used to torture her


or pin wheel

[pin-hweel, -weel] /ˈpɪnˌʰwil, -ˌwil/
a child's toy consisting of a wheel or leaflike curls of paper or plastic loosely attached by a pin to a stick, designed to revolve when blown by or as by the wind.
Also called catherine wheel. a kind of firework supported on a pin which, when ignited, revolves rapidly and gives a dazzling display of light.
a wheel having pins at right angles to its rim for engaging the teeth of a gear.
verb (used without object)
to revolve rapidly like a pinwheel:
Images of the past pinwheeled through his mind.
1695-1705; pin + wheel Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for catherine-wheel
Historical Examples
  • He has mentioned to me that you went off with a noise like a catherine-wheel.

    The Late Tenant Louis Tracy
  • The others were watching him much as they would a catherine-wheel that refused to ignite.

  • This sends the hair all out like a catherine-wheel, and dries the brush with quite astonishing rapidity.

    Stained Glass Work C. W. Whall
  • After which he went away as a catherine-wheel, and I saw him no more.

    A Great Emergency and Other Tales Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing
  • The fly-wheel of the engine revolved like a catherine-wheel composed of water—water flying in brief tangents from the rim.

    The House by the River A. P. Herbert
  • He would wheel you by the beard round his arm like a catherine-wheel, I do assure you.

    The Lord of the Sea M. P. Shiel
  • Rose-Window, a circular window, called also a catherine-wheel, or a Marigold window.

  • She swung round the yard, doubled in two, making circles like a catherine-wheel about him until the old blackguard was mesmerised.

    Waysiders Seumas O'Kelly
British Dictionary definitions for catherine-wheel

Catherine wheel

Also called pinwheel. a type of firework consisting of a powder-filled spiral tube, mounted with a pin through its centre. When lit it rotates quickly, producing a display of sparks and coloured flame
a circular window having ribs radiating from the centre
Word Origin
C16: named after St Catherine of Alexandria


another name for Catherine wheel (sense 1)
a cogwheel whose teeth are formed by small pins projecting either axially or radially from the rim of the wheel
(US & Canadian) a toy consisting of plastic or paper vanes attached to a stick in such a manner that they revolve like the sails of a windmill Also called (in Britain and certain other countries) windmill, whirligig
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for catherine-wheel



also pin-wheel, 1690s, "a wheel in the striking train of a clock in which pins are fixed to lift the hammer," from pin (n.) + wheel (n.). Fireworks sense is from 1869.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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