[free-hwee-ling, -wee-]


operating in the manner of a freewheel.
(of a person) moving about freely, independently, or irresponsibly.
(of words, remarks, actions, etc.) unrestrained; irresponsible: Loose, freewheeling charges were traded during the argument.

Origin of freewheeling

First recorded in 1900–05; freewheel + -ing2


[free-hweel, -weel]


a device in the transmission of a motor vehicle that automatically disengages the drive shaft whenever it begins to turn more rapidly than the engine.
a form of rear bicycle wheel that has a device freeing it from the driving mechanism, as when the pedals are stopped in coasting.

verb (used without object)

(of a vehicle or its operator) to coast with the wheels disengaged from the driving mechanism.
to move or function freely, independently, unconcernedly, or the like (often followed by about, through, around, etc.): The two friends freewheeled around the country after graduation.

Origin of freewheel

First recorded in 1895–1900; free + wheel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for free-wheeling

Contemporary Examples of free-wheeling

  • The impression Americans have of a raucous, free-wheeling public debate in Israel may be a thing of the past.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Wither The Israeli Press?

    Noam Sheizaf

    October 3, 2012

Historical Examples of free-wheeling

  • The conversation was free-wheeling and we got onto all sorts of topics.

    The Night of the Long Knives

    Fritz Reuter Leiber

  • A minute later she was free-wheeling down the hill that led through the village in the direction of Petteridge Court.

  • There was an exaltation in free-wheeling down the hills, flying through the air like birds.

    Loyal to the School

    Angela Brazil

  • You're the first full-fledged, wide-open, free-wheeling psi-high that's ever appeared in human history.

    Second Sight

    Alan Edward Nourse

  • Once more he had the sensation of coasting or free-wheeling down a pleasant hill of perfect companionship.


    Maurice Baring

British Dictionary definitions for free-wheeling



a ratchet device in the rear hub of a bicycle wheel that permits the wheel to rotate freely while the pedals are stationary
a device in the transmission of some vehicles that automatically disengages the drive shaft when it rotates more rapidly than the engine shaft, so that the drive shaft can turn freely


(intr) to coast in a vehicle or on a bicycle using the freewheel



relating to, operating as, or having a freewheel; coasting
informal free of restraints; carefree or uninhibited
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

Word Origin and History for free-wheeling



1903, from free wheel (1899, see free (adj.) + wheel); a bicycle wheel that turns even when not being pedaled, later from the name of a kind of automobile drive system that allowed cars to coast without being slowed by the engine. Figurative sense is from 1911.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper