[ weel, hweel ]
See synonyms for: wheelwheeledwheelingwheels on Thesaurus.com

  1. a circular frame or disk arranged to revolve on an axis, as on or in vehicles or machinery.

  2. any machine, apparatus, instrument, etc., shaped like this or having a circular frame, disk, or revolving drum as an essential feature: a potter's wheel; roulette wheel; spinning wheel.

  1. Nautical.

    • a circular frame with an axle connecting to the rudder of a ship, for steering: He took the wheel during the storm.

    • a propeller.

  2. Informal. a bicycle.

  3. a round object, decoration, etc.: a wheel of cheese; a design of red wheels and blue squares.

  4. an old instrument of torture in the form of a circular frame on which the victim was stretched until disjointed.

  5. a circular firework that revolves rapidly while burning; pinwheel.

  6. a rotating instrument that Fortune is represented as turning in order to bring about changes or reverses in human affairs.

  7. wheels,

    • moving, propelling, or animating agencies: the wheels of commerce; the wheels of thought.

    • Slang. a personal means of transportation, especially a car.

  8. a cycle, recurring action, or steady progression: the wheel of days and nights.

  9. a wheeling or circular movement: the intricate wheels of the folk dances.

  10. (formerly) a movement of troops, ships, etc., drawn up in line, as if turning on a pivot.

  11. Informal. someone active and influential, as in business, politics, etc.; an important person: a big wheel.

verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to turn, rotate, or revolve, as on an axis.

  2. to perform (a movement) in a circular or curving direction.

  1. to move, roll, or convey on wheels, casters, etc.: The servants wheel the tables out.

  2. to provide (a vehicle, machine, etc.) with wheels.

verb (used without object)
  1. to turn on or as on an axis or about a center; revolve, rotate, or pivot.

  2. to move in a circular or curving course: pigeons wheeling above.

  1. to turn so as to face in a different direction (often followed by about or around): He wheeled about and faced his opponent squarely.

  2. to change one's opinion or procedure (often followed by about or around): He wheeled around and argued for the opposition.

  3. to roll along on or as on wheels; travel along smoothly: The car wheeled along the highway.

  4. British Military. to turn: Right wheel!

Idioms about wheel

  1. at the wheel,

    • 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.

  2. hell on wheels. hell (def. 19).

  1. spin one's wheels, Informal. to expend or waste effort to no avail: He spun his wheels on that project for two years.

  2. wheel and deal, Informal. to operate dynamically for one's own profit or benefit.

  3. wheels within wheels, an involved interaction of motives or agencies operating to produce the final result: Government agencies are a study of wheels within wheels.

Origin of wheel

before 900; (noun) Middle English whel(e), Old English hwēol, hweohl; cognate with Dutch wiel,Old Norse hjōl; akin to Greek kýklos (see cycle); (v.) Middle English, derivative of the noun

Other words from wheel

  • wheel·less, adjective
  • un·der·wheel, noun
  • un·wheel, verb (used with object)

Words Nearby wheel

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use wheel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for wheel


/ (wiːl) /

  1. a solid disc, or a circular rim joined to a hub by radial or tangential spokes, that is mounted on a shaft about which it can turn, as in vehicles and machines

  2. anything like a wheel in shape or function

  1. a device consisting of or resembling a wheel or having a wheel as its principal component: a steering wheel; a water wheel

  2. the wheel a medieval torture consisting of a wheel to which the victim was tied and then had his limbs struck and broken by an iron bar

  3. the act of turning

  4. a pivoting movement of troops, ships, etc

  5. a type of firework coiled to make it rotate when let off

  6. a set of short rhyming lines, usually four or five in number, forming the concluding part of a stanza: Compare bob 2 (def. 7)

  7. the disc in which the ball is spun in roulette

  8. US and Canadian an informal word for bicycle

  9. archaic a refrain

  10. informal, mainly US and Canadian a person of great influence (esp in the phrase big wheel)

  11. at the wheel

    • driving or steering a vehicle or vessel

    • in charge

  1. (when intr sometimes foll by about or round) to turn or cause to turn on or as if on an axis

  2. to move or cause to move on or as if on wheels; roll

  1. (tr) to perform with or in a circular movement

  2. (tr) to provide with a wheel or wheels

  3. (intr often foll by about) to change one's mind or opinion

  4. wheel and deal informal to be a free agent, esp to advance one's own interests

Origin of wheel

Old English hweol, hweowol; related to Old Norse hvēl, Greek kuklos, Middle Low German wēl, Dutch wiel

Derived forms of wheel

  • wheel-less, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with wheel


In addition to the idioms beginning with wheel

  • wheel and deal
  • wheels in motion
  • wheels within wheels

also see:

  • 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

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