free·wheel (frēwēl, -hwēl)
n. also free wheel
1. A power-transmission device that allows the drive shaft of a motor vehicle to continue turning when its speed is greater than that of the engine shaft.
2. A clutch in the rear-wheel hub of a bicycle that permits the wheel to turn without pedal action, as in coasting.
intr.v. free·wheeled, free·wheel·ing, free·wheels
1. To continue turning or spinning after disengagement from the drive mechanism.
2. To live or move freely and sometimes aimlessly or irresponsibly.
3. To operate independently or free of restraints.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.