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free +‎ wheel


freewheel (plural freewheels)

  1. a device in a transmission that disengages the driveshaft from the driven shaft when the driven shaft rotates faster than the driveshaft.



freewheel (third-person singular simple present freewheels, present participle freewheeling, simple past and past participle freewheeled)

  1. (of a gear) To continue spinning after disengagement.
  2. (of a cyclist) To ride a bicycle without pedalling, e.g. downhill.
    • 1935, George Orwell, A Clergyman’s Daughter, Chapter 3,[1]
      On her elderly bicycle with the basketwork carrier on the handle-bars, Dorothy free-wheeled down the hill, doing mental arithmetic with three pounds nineteen and fourpence--her entire stock of money until next quarter-day.
  3. (of a motorist) To operate a motor vehicle which is coasting without power, e.g. downhill.
  4. (by extension) To operate free from constraints.