- a circular frame with an axle connecting to the rudder of a ship, for steering: He took the wheel during the storm.
- a paddle wheel.
- a propeller.
- moving, propelling, or animating agencies: the wheels of commerce; the wheels of thought.
- Slang.a personal means of transportation, especially a car.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- at the helm of a ship, the steering wheel of a motor vehicle, etc.
- in command or control: Her ambition is to be at the wheel of a large corporation by the age of 40.
Origin of wheel
- driving or steering a vehicle or vessel
- in charge
Word Origin for wheel
"to turn like a wheel," early 13c., from wheel (n.); transitive sense attested from late 14c. Related: Wheeled; wheeling.
Old English hweol, hweogol, from Proto-Germanic *khwekhwlan, *khwegwlan (cf. Old Norse hvel, Old Swedish hiughl, Old Frisian hwel, Middle Dutch weel), from PIE *k(w)e-k(w)lo- "wheel, circle" (cf. Old Church Slavonic kolo "wheel"), a reduplicated form from root *k(w)el- "to go round" (see cycle (n.)).
The root wegh-, "to convey, especially by wheeled vehicle," is found in virtually every branch of Indo-European, including now Anatolian. The root, as well as other widely represented roots such as aks- and nobh-, attests to the presence of the wheel -- and vehicles using it -- at the time Proto-Indo-European was spoken. [Watkins, p. 96]
Figurative sense is early 14c. Slang wheels "a car" is recorded from 1959. Wheeler-dealer is from 1954, a rhyming elaboration of dealer; wheelie is from 1966.
spin one's wheels
Expend effort with no result, as in We're just spinning our wheels here while management tries to make up its mind. This idiom, with its image of a vehicle in snow or sand that spins its wheels but cannot move, dates from the mid-1900s.
In addition to the idioms beginning with wheel
- wheel and deal
- wheels in motion
- wheels within wheels
- asleep at the switch (wheel)
- at the wheel
- big cheese (wheel)
- cog in the wheel
- fifth wheel
- grease (oil) the wheels
- hell on wheels
- put one's shoulder to the wheel
- reinvent the wheel
- set (wheels) in motion
- spin one's wheels
- squeaky wheel gets the grease