Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.

fifth wheel

a horizontal ring or segment of a ring, consisting of two bands that slide on each other, placed above the front axle of a carriage and designed to support the forepart of the body while allowing it to turn freely in a horizontal plane.
a similar device used as a coupling to connect a semitrailer to a tractor.
a similar coupling between a heavy-duty pickup truck and a camping trailer (fifth-wheel trailer) that extends over the bed of the truck.
an extra wheel for a four-wheeled vehicle.
a superfluous, unneeded, or unwanted person or thing:
They enjoy making any outsider feel like a fifth wheel.
Origin of fifth wheel
First recorded in 1870-75 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
British Dictionary definitions for fifth wheel

fifth wheel

a spare wheel for a four-wheeled vehicle
  1. the coupling table of an articulated vehicle
  2. a steering bearing that enables the front axle of a horse-drawn vehicle to rotate relative to the body
a superfluous or unnecessary person or thing
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
Cite This Source
fifth wheel in Culture

fifth wheel definition

A hanger-on; a person who serves no function: “The vice president felt like a fifth wheel after his exclusion from the committee.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for fifth wheel

fifth wheel

noun phrase

A superfluous person or thing: I feel as though I'm a fifth wheel

[1902+; the date reflects the full form fifth wheel of the coach]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with fifth wheel

fifth wheel

An extra and unnecessary person or thing, as in He was the only one without a date, so he felt like a fifth wheel. This expression, which alludes to an unneeded wheel on a four-wheel vehicle, may have originated as long ago as 1631, when Thomas Dekker wrote Match Me in London: “Thou tiest but wings to a swift gray Hounds heel, And addest to a running Chariot a fifth wheel.”
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for fifth wheel

Difficulty index for fifth wheel

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for fifth

Scrabble Words With Friends