Word Family - Wheel


This is quite a large family with a number of borrowings into other language families. Because, it turns out, the Indo-European speakers' relationship with wheels is pretty important in a lot of people's history, like the Sumerians' relationship with reeds.

There is also a root *wel(h₁)-: "to turn, to wind, to eddy", which it's hard to argue is completely unrelated to *kʷel(h₁)-: "to roll, to turn"! But doing they're both quite big families, and I ran out of time to do them both at once. The *wel(h₁)- family includes words like waltz, walk, revolution, vulgar, and helicopter.


pole, culture, wheel, cycle, collar, palimpsest, lord

Full Text

  • Proto-Indo-European *kʷelh₁- to roll, to turn
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷélh₁eti rolls, travels primary verb
      • Albanian sjell to turn, to bring, to dawdle
      • Hellenic *kʷélō
        • Ancient Greek πέλω pélō to go, to become, to be
          • Ancient Greek πάλαι pálai gone, far away, long ago
            • English paleo-
      • Indo-Iranian *čárati
        • Indo-Aryan *ćárati
          • Sanskrit चरति cárati moves, walks, wanders, directs, behaves
            • Pali carati walks, moves
        • Iranian *čárati
          • Avestan 𐬗𐬀𐬭𐬁𐬥𐬍 carānī I move, I approach
          • Northern Iranian
            • Alanian
              • Ossetian цӕрын cæryn I live
          • Pashto څرېدل caredal to take to pasture, to set to graze
          • Western Iranian
            • Northwestern Iranian
              • Kurdish çerîn to set to graze
            • Old Persian
              • Persian چریدن to take to pasture, to set to graze
      • Italic *kʷelō
        • Latin colō I plow, I cultivate, I inhabit, I worship
          • Latin -cola inhabitor, cultivator, worshipper
            • Latin agricola farmer lit. "field-turner"
              • Latin Agricola Farmer personal or family name
                • English Agricola [1]
              • French agricole agricultural
          • Latin colōnus farmer, inhabitant, colonist
            • Western Romance
              • French colon colonist, colonizer, camper, sharecropper
              • Italian colono colonist, settler, farmer
              • Spanish colono colonist, settler, farmer [2]
            • Latin colōnia colony, settlement, estate
              • English colony
        • Italic *inkʷelō
          • Italic *inkʷelīnos
            • Latin inquilīnus sojourner, tenant, of foreign origin
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷelh₁esyeti
      • Hellenic *kʷeléyyō
        • Ancient Greek τελέω teléō I complete, I fulfill, I perform
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷólh₁os
      • Hellenic *kʷólos
        • Ancient Greek πόλος pólos axle, pivot, hinge
          • Greek πόλος pólos pole (of an axis or battery)
            • Greek Βόρειος Πόλος North Pole
          • Latin polus pole (of an axis)
            • Old French pole
              • French pôle
              • English pole [3]
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷl̥h₁tós turned adjective
      • Italic *kʷəltos
        • Latin cultus tilled, cultivated, nurtured, worshipped, religious group
          • French culte
            • English cult
          • Latin cultūra care, cultuivation, agriculture, culture
            • French culture
              • English culture
            • Italian cultura
            • Spanish cultura
            • Latin agricultūra
              • English agriculture
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷélh₁os
      • Hellenic *kʷélos
        • Ancient Greek τέλος télos completion, fulfillment, result, end, death, highest authority, taxes
          • Greek τέλος end, finish
          • Ancient Greek Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs Best-Result (personal name)
            • Latin Aristotelēs Aristotle
              • English Aristotle
          • English tele(o)-
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷelh₁om
      • Balto-Slavic
        • West Baltic
          • Old Prussian kelan wheel
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷékʷlh₁os
      • Anatolian *kuakula?? wheels (collective) [4]
        • Hittite 𒆪𒄢𒆷 KU.GUL.LA donut
        • Sumerian 𒇀 GIGIR chariot
        • Northwest Semitic *GLGL wheels, rolling
          • Hebrew גַּלְגַּל gálgal wheel
          • Hebrew הִתְגַּלְגֵּל hitgalgél to roll
      • Balto-Slavic *kaklas neck [5]
        • Eastern Baltic
          • Lithuanian kãklas neck, collar
          • Finnic *kakla
            • Finnish kaula neck
      • Germanic *hwehwlã wheel
        • North Germanic
          • Old Norse hvél
            • Icelandic hvel wheel, disk, circle
        • Germanic *hweulō wheels
          • North Germanic
            • Old Norse hjól wheel
              • Danish hjul wheel
              • Icelandic hjól wheel, tire
                • Icelandic reiðhjól bicycle
          • West Germanic
            • Old English hwēol wheel
              • English wheel
            • Frankish *wiol
              • Dutch wiel wheel
      • Hellenic
        • Ancient Greek κῠ́κλος kúklos circle, wheel, crowd, sphere
          • Greek κύκλος kýklos circle, cycle, course
          • Latin cyclus circle, cycle
            • French cycle
              • English cycle
                • Japanese サイクル saikuru
              • French bicycle
                • French bicyclette
                • English bicycle
            • Italian ciclo
            • Spanish ciclo
          • English Kuklos Adelphon
            • English Ku Klux Klan
          • Ancient Greek κυκλόω kuklóō to go in a circle, to surround
            • English cyclone
          • Ancient Greek Κύκλωψ Kúklōps cyclops partly [6]
            • English cyclops
      • Indo-Iranian *čakrám wheel
        • Indo-Aryan *ćakrám
          • Sanskrit चक्र cakrá wheel, circle, cycle
            • Magadhi
              • Bengali চাকা caka
            • Pali cakka wheel, circle, cycle, command
              • Burmese စက် cak circle, wheel, cycle, machine
              • Thai จักร jàk wheel, circle, gear, chakra, realm
            • Sauraseni
              • Madhya
                • Hindi चक्कर cakkar circle, curve, roundabout
            • Telugu చక్రము cakramu wheel
            • English chakra
            • English chakram
            • Sanskrit चक्रवर्तिन् cakravartin
              • English chakravartin
        • Iranian *čaxrám
          • Avestan 𐬗𐬀𐬑𐬭𐬀 caxra wheel
          • Northern Iranian
            • Alanian
              • Ossetian цалх calx wheel
          • Pashto څرخ carx
          • Western Iranian
            • Northwestern Iranian
              • Balochi چہر čahr
              • Kurdish çerx wheel
            • Old Persian
              • Persian چرخ čarx wheel, cart, spool, pulley
          • Iranian *čaxrákah spinning wheel
            • Western Iranian
              • Northwestern Iranian
                • Balochi چہرگ čahrag
              • Old Persian
                • Persian چرخه čarxe spinning wheel
        • Finnic *kecrä spindle, wheel, flywheel
          • Finnish kehrä spindle, disk of the Sun or Moon
          • Finnish kekri harvest festival "turning of the year?"
      • Phrygian κίκλην kíklēn
      • Tocharian *kukäle
        • Arshian kukäl wagon, cart
        • Kushean kokale wagon, cart
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷólh₁os
      • Balto-Slavic *kalas
        • Slavic *kȍlo wheel, circle
      • Celtic *kʷolos
        • Old Irish cul chariot?
          • Old Irish culgaire chariot noise with gaire: "call, shout"
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷolh₁som
      • Italic *kʷolsom
        • Latin collum neck [5]
          • Sardinian coddu neck
          • Western Romance
            • Old French col
              • French cou neck
              • French col collar, neck (of a vase, etc.)
            • Italian collo neck, collar, package
            • Spanish cuello neck, collar
          • Latin collāris of the neck, collared
            • Old French coler
              • French colier
              • English collar
                • Irish coiléar collar, truss
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷolh₁sos
      • Germanic *halsaz neck [5]
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷl̥h₁is
      • Hellenic
        • Ancient Greek *pális back, reverse "turned part"
          • Ancient Greek πᾰ́λῐν pálin backwards, again
            • Greek πάλι páli again
            • Coptic ⲡⲁⲗⲓⲛ palin again
            • Ancient Greek πᾰλῐ́μψηστος palímpsēstos re-scraped
              • Latin palimpsēstus manuscript scraped clean for re-use, palimpsest
                • English palimpsest
    • Proto-Indo-European ?
      • Tocharian
        • Kushean kleŋke wagon
        • Old Chinese *kla chariot [7]
          • Middle Chinese kɨʌ chariot (xiangqi), rook (chess) [7]
            • Mandarin
            • Wu geoi¹
            • Yue jy¹
        • Old Chinese *kʰlja chariot, cart [7]
          • Middle Chinese t͡ɕʰia chariot, cart, vehicle, machine [7]
            • Mandarin chē chariot, cart, vehicle, machine
            • Wu tsho¹ chariot, cart, vehicle, machine
            • Yue ce¹ chariot, cart, vehicle, machine
            • Japanese sha vehicle
            • Korean cha vehicle
        • Old Chinese *kloːɡ hub, wheel, chariot
    • Uralic *kulke- to go, to walk
      • Finno-Ugric
        • Finnic *kulkedak
          • Finnish kulkea to go, to walk, to travel
        • Ugric
          • Hungarian halad to proceed, to advance
      • Samoyedic
        • Nenets хуˮла χūllā to drift
    • Proto-Indo-European *kʷlewt- to turn, to change a new root re-analyzed from a zero-grade form?
      • Proto-Indo-European *kʷlutsḱéti iterative verb
        • Tocharian *klutk-
          • Arshian lutk- to make, to change, to become, to turn into
          • Kushean klutk- to make, to change, to become, to turn into
      • Proto-Indo-European *kʷlewtsm̥
        • Albanian qeshë was suppletive past tense of jam
    • Proto-Indo-European *kleyp-? (flat) bread [8]
      • Balto-Slavic
        • East Baltic
          • Lithuanian kliẽpas loaf of bread
      • Germanic *hlaibaz
        • East Germanic
          • Gothic 𐌷𐌻𐌰𐌹𐍆𐍃 hlaifs bread
          • Slavic *xlě̀bъ
            • East Slavic хлѣбъ xlěbŭ
              • Russian хлеб xleb bread, loaf, living
            • South Slavic
              • Old Church Slavonic хлѣбъ xlěbŭ bread, loaf
              • Serbo-Croatian хље̏б hljȅb bread, loaf
            • West Slavic
              • Polish chleb bread, work
        • North Germanic
          • Old Norse hleifr loaf
            • Danish lev
            • Icelandic hleifur loaf (of bread)
        • West Germanic
          • Old English hlāf bread, loaf
            • English loaf
            • Scots laif
            • Old English hlǣfdīġe mistress of a household lit. "bread-kneader"
              • English lady
            • Old English hlāfweard master of a houshold lit. "bread-guard"
              • English lord
              • Scots laird
        • Finnic *laipa
          • Finnish leipä bread
        • Samic *lājpē
          • Northern Sami láibi bread
      • Hellenic
        • Ancient Greek κρῑ́βᾰνος krī́banos bread pan, bread oven also appears as klī́banos
          • Greek Κλίβανος furnace
          • Latin clībanus breadpan, oven, furnace


Image is a visual representation of the text content above.

Collected English words

paleo-, Agricola, colony, pole, cult, culture, agriculture, Aristotle, tele(o)-, wheel, cycle, bicycle, Kuklos Adelphon, Ku Klux Klan, cyclone, cyclops, chakra, chakram, chakravartin, collar, palimpsest, loaf, lady, lord


  1. ^

    As in Georgius Agricola, the Latinate name of Georg Bauer the author of "De Rei Metallica", the foundational work of geology. "Bauer" means "farmer" in German, thus the translation to "Agricola". But also, "Georg(ius)" is from Greek γεωργός geōrgós: "farmer" ("geo-" + "ergo-": "earth-work"), so he is "Farmer Farmer".

  2. ^

    Do Spanish speakers make puns on Cristobal Colón (the Spanish version of Christopher Columbus) and colono: "colonizer"? (He was probably natively Cristoffa Corombo. In any case the family name meant "dove".)

  3. ^

    English pole as in North Pole or the pole of a magnet is from Greek πόλος pólos: "axle, pivot point". But pole like an upright stick is from Latin palus, thus setting up much confusion as to whether there is a pole at the North Pole.

  4. ^

    Sumerian 𒇀 GIGIR: "chariot" and/or Hebrew גַּלְגַּל gálgal: "wheel" may derive from IE introduction of the chariot, but it is far from certain.

  5. ^

    Words for "neck" come from this root via the concept of "thing that turns (your head)".

    Germanic *halsaz you'd expect to be *hwalsaz. Perhaps the *w was absorbed by the *o before it was lowered to *a, or it could have been influenced by Latin collum, where the absorption of the *w is expected.

  6. ^

    Κύκλωψ Kúklōps: "cyclops" can be understood as "round eye", but this may be an eggcorn of *péḱu-klṓps: "cattle-thief", after Greek stopped using the word *péḱu. If so, the reinterpretation of the word may have led to a re-envisioning of the creature. (Reconstruction shows that cattle-raiding was clearly an important part of Proto-Indo-European culture and probably mythology.)

  7. ^

    There are three Chinese words related to wheels and vehicles that sound vaguely like *kʷelh₁- or *kʷékʷlh₁os:

    • *kʰlja/*kla: "chariot, cart"
    • *kloːɡ: "hub, wheel, chariot"
    • 軲轆 gu lu(k): "wheel"

    There's a good chance at least one of these is from Indo-European, since chariots arrived in China from the west across the steppe and through the Jade Gate.

    is a great example of a hanzi where you can still see the ancient pictographic origin. It's a top down view of a chariot with the an axle and wheels to the top and bottom. (Note: appears as a semantic component of the hanzi and both of the hanzi in 軲轆).

    On the other hand, there are also similar sounding words with more general circular meanings that are less likely to be from Indo-European, and also provide an alternate origin for the ones above:

    • *ɡuːl: "to turn around, to repeat, to refuse"
    • *klul: "to return, to come back to"

    Tibetan also has འཁོར 'khor: "to turn around, to spin, to gather, circle, wheel, cycle" and འཁོར་ལོ 'khor lo: "wheel, vehicle, chariot, machine", which adds support to a native Sino-Tibetan origin of some of them, especially, 軲轆 gu lu(k): "wheel".

  8. ^

    *kleyp-? is a plausible root for at least two words of unknown origin connected to bread: Germanic *hlaibaz: "loaf" and Ancient Greek krī́banos/klī́banos: "bread pan, bread oven". The East Baltic words (represented by Lithuanian kliẽpas: "loaf of bread") may be a third, or may represent an early borrowing from Germanic, like the later Slavic borrowing.

    Germanic *hlaibaz (loaf) is thought to have originally meant flatbread, in constrast to *braudã (bread), connected to brew and meaning "leavened bread". Assuming this is correct, the semantic connection to kʷel- is the wheel-like shape of most flatbread.

    On the other hand, the phonology is shaky and Ancient Greek words that vary between l and r tend to be borrowings from non-IE sources. Often because the Minoan language appears not to have had an l/r distinction, and/or because some but not all Ancient Egyptian dialects in which l merged into r. So these words could also be borrowed from one or more unknown languages. (see "lion")