The earliest records we have of the word wheel are from the 800s, when it was spelled hweol. Around the 1400s, it started to be spelled without the o and with a wh- at the beginning, although it still had a soft (voiceless) w sound for a while until the modern pronunciation was adopted. The word comes from Proto-Germanic hwehla, and we can tell this comes from Proto-Indo-European kwel (meaning "revolve") because, according to Grimm's Law, the kw in PIE became a hw sound in Proto-Germanic. Meanwhile, it stayed the same in other families like Latin, which is why some other descendants of kwel include words with hard-k sounds like collar and colony. The word wheel first started getting used as a verb in the 1200s and peaked in usage in 1906.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.