Origin

Origin and meaning of bicycle by Online Etymology Dictionary

1868, from bi- “two” + a Latinized form of Greek kyklos “circle, wheel” (see cycle (n.)), on the pattern of tricycle; both the word and the vehicle superseding earlier velocipede.

The English word is said in some dictionaries to be probably not from French, but the 1868 citations are in a French context: The velocipedes, about which the Parisians have run mad at the present moment, are of various kinds. … The two wheel velocipedes, the bicycles as they are styled, are intended for the male sex only, and are by far the swiftest machines. [“Supplement to the Courant,” Hartford, Conn., Dec. 16, 1868]. Pierre Lallement, employee of a French carriage works, improved Macmillan’s 1839 pedal velocipede in 1865 and took the invention to America. See also pennyfarthing. As a verb, from 1869.

The velocipede of 1869 was worked by treadles operating cranks on the axle oi the front wheel.

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