Adventures in Etymology – Wheel

In this Adventure in Etymology we’re unrolling the origins of the word wheel, and finding out how its linked to such words as pole, telephone, cult, collar and cycle.

Snaefell Wheel (Lady Evelyn)

A wheel [wiːl/ʍiːl/wil] is:

  • A circular device capable of rotating on its axis, facilitating movement or transportation or performing labour in machines.

It comes from Middle English whele [ʍeːl] (wheel), from Old English hwēol [xwe͜oːl] (wheel), from Proto-Germanic *hwehwlą [ˈxʷe.xʷlɑ̃] (wheel), from PIE *kʷékʷlom (wheel) from *kʷel- (to turn) [source].

Words from the same roots include pole, telephone, chakra, cult, collar and cycle in English, kolo (bicycle, wheel) in Czech, kakls (neck, throat) in Latvian, and चाक (cāk – wheel) and चक्र (cakra – circle, ring, wheel, cycle) in Hindi [source].

Incidentally, words for chariot or wheel in Sumerian (𒄑𒇀), Aramaic and Hebrew (גַּלְגַּל‎) and Chinese (軲轆) possibly come from the same PIE roots [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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