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wheel. Through the many millennia of the Paleolithic period and the Neolithic period no use of the wheel was known to humans. Its use was not known to the Native Americans until the Europeans introduced it. In the Old World it came into use in the Bronze Age, when oxen and horses were first used as draft animals and wheeled vehicles were devised. Wheels for vehicles were at first solid wooden disks; spoked wheels were introduced c.2700 B.C. The potter's wheel was invented in the Bronze Age, earlier pottery being made, like that of the Native Americans, without the use of the wheel. See gear; tire; wheel and axle.


See R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology (1955); E. Tunis, Wheels (1955); W. Owen et al., ed., Wheels (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a part found in machines and mechanisms; it takes the form of a round plate or of a rim joined by spokes to a hub. A wheel can spin freely on an axle or be fastened to it, and it is used to transmit or convert rotary motion.

The wheel, one of the greatest inventions of mankind, has been known since about the middle of the fourth millenium B.C. (in Mesopotamia). The wheel was an improvement on the wooden rollers that had been used for millennia to move loads. Initially the wheel was a round plate fitted to an axle. In the second millennium B.C., its design was improved: the wheel with spokes, a hub, and a circular rim appeared. Later a metal rim came into use for increased strength and durability, and much later the rim was replaced by the tires used in motor vehicles.

The invention of the wheel furthered the development and improvement of crafts and trades: the potter’s wheel, the grinding wheel in mills, the spinning wheel, and the lathe are all derived from the wheel. With the invention of self-propelled vehicles, the wheel began to act as a link in the propulsion system. Water wheels have been used in irrigation works, manufacturing mills, mines, and elsewhere. In the 19th century the the water wheel as an energy converter was gradually replaced by the turbine, which is also basically a wheel. In a majority of operating machines, the wheel alters the rotation speed, changes the direction of motion, or transfers motion from a horizontal axis to a vertical one or vice versa (in belt and gear drives and the like).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a wheel?

A wheel may indicate completion of a project or the continuation of a familiar situation. A circle is also a spiritual sign of that which has no beginning and no end. Alternatively, the dreamer may be caught in a situation in which he or she feels they are going in a circle.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(design engineering)
A circular frame with a hub at the center for attachment to an axle, about which it may revolve and bear a load.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


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. a device consisting of or resembling a wheel or having a wheel as its principal component
3. short for potter's wheel
4. a type of firework coiled to make it rotate when let off
5. a set of short rhyming lines, usually four or five in number, forming the concluding part of a stanza
6. the disc in which the ball is spun in roulette
7. US and Canadian an informal word for bicycle
8. Archaic a refrain
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


[slang "big wheel" for a powerful person] A person who has an active wheel bit. "We need to find a wheel to unwedge the hung tape drives." (See wedged).
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)
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