Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can鈥檛 figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of pedal

1605鈥15; (<French p茅dale) <Latin ped膩lis of the feet. See ped-2, -al1


pedal , peddle, petal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 漏 Random House, Inc. 2022


What does聽pedal mean?

A pedal is a foot-operated lever that controls some kind of mechanism. The most common kinds of pedals are those on a bicycle, the brake pedal and gas pedal (accelerator) in a car, and the pedals used in musical instruments like pianos and organs.

Pedal can also be a verb meaning to operate a pedal, as in You鈥檇 better pedal faster! In American English, the past tense is spelled pedaled and the continuous tense is spelled pedaling. In British English, as with many other words, the l is doubled: pedalled and pedalling.

Example: When I was a kid, I liked to pedal my bike as fast as I could and then take my feet off the pedals and watch them keep spinning.

Where does聽pedal聽come from?

The first records of pedal come from the 1600s. It comes from the Latin ped膩lis, meaning 鈥渙f the feet,鈥 from p膿s, meaning 鈥渇oot.鈥 The root p膿s and its variants ped- and pedi- give us a lot of words related to feet, such as pedestrian (someone who travels by foot) and pedicure.

There are a lot of different kinds of pedals, but they all have at least one thing in common鈥攖hey鈥檙e made to be operated with the foot.

Most pedals are one of two types. Some are levers that are used to turn a wheel. The pedals on a bicycle power the chain wheel, which then turns the wheels.

Other types of pedals are more like switches: when pressed with the foot, they control another mechanism. The gas pedal in a car is called the gas pedal because it controls the amount of fuel that goes to the engine鈥攖he more fuel, the faster the car will go. In a piano, the pedals are used to sustain a tone or create a muted effect. In organs, they鈥檙e used to control deep bass tones. Foot-operated pedals can be hooked up to electric guitars to allow the player to change the quality of the sound. Sewing machines use a pedal to control how rapidly the needle moves up and down.

Pedal should not be confused with the verb peddle (meaning 鈥渢o go from place to place to sell goods鈥), which is pronounced exactly the same, or the noun petal (as in a flower petal), which has almost the same pronunciation.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to pedal?

  • pedaled (past tense verb, American English spelling)
  • pedalled (past tense verb, British English spelling)
  • pedaling (continuous tense verb, American English spelling)
  • pedalling (continuous tense verb, British English spelling)

What are some words that share a root or word element with pedal?聽

What are some words that often get used in discussing pedal?

What are some words pedal may be commonly confused with?

How is聽pedal used in real life?

Pedal is a common word and a common thing鈥攖here are all kinds of pedals that we use to operate things with our feet.



Try using聽pedal!

Is pedal used correctly in the following sentence?

When you鈥檙e coasting downhill, you should keep your foot on the brake pedal.

How to use pedal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pedal (1 of 2)

/ (藞p蓻dl) /

  1. any foot-operated lever or other device, esp one of the two levers that drive the chain wheel of a bicycle, the foot brake, clutch control, or accelerator of a car, one of the levers on an organ controlling deep bass notes, or one of the levers on a piano used to create a muted effect or sustain tone
  2. (as modifier)a pedal cycle; a pianist's pedal technique
verb -als, -alling or -alled or US -als, -aling or -aled
to propel (a bicycle, boat, etc) by operating the pedals
(intr) to operate the pedals of an organ, piano, etc, esp in a certain way
to work (pedals of any kind)

Word Origin for pedal

C17: from Latin ped膩lis; see pedal

British Dictionary definitions for pedal (2 of 2)

/ (藞pi藧dl) /

of or relating to the foot or feet

Word Origin for pedal

C17: from Latin ped膩lis, from p膿s foot
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition 漏 William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 漏 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with pedal


see soft pedal.

The American Heritage庐 Idioms Dictionary Copyright 漏 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.