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A wheel is a device that is capable of rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load (mass), or performing labor in machines. Common examples are found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle, overcomes friction by facilitating motion by rolling. In order for wheels to rotate, a moment needs to be applied to the wheel about its axis, either by way of gravity, or by application of another external force. More generally the term is also used for other circular objects that rotate or turn, such as a ship's wheel, steering wheel and flywheel.



The English word wheel comes from the Old English word hweol, hweogol, from Proto-Germanic *hwehwlan, *hwegwlan, from Proto-Indo-European *kwekwlo-,[1] an extended form of the root *kwel- "to revolve, move around". Cognates within Indo-European include Greek κύκλος kýklos, "wheel", Sanskrit chakra, Old Church Slavonic kolo, all meaning "circle" or "wheel",[2]

The Latin word rota is from the Proto-Indo-European *rotā-, the extended o-grade form of the root *ret- meaning "to roll, revolve".[3]


Evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the mid 4th millennium BC, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia, the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe, and so the question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle remains unresolved and under debate.

The earliest well-dated depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here a wagon—four wheels, two axles), is on the Bronocice pot, a ca. 3500–3350 BCE clay pot excavated in a Funnelbeaker culture settlement in southern Poland.[4]

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