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fel·​ly ˈfe-lē How to pronounce felly (audio)
variants or felloe
plural fellies or felloes
: the exterior rim or a segment of the rim of a wheel supported by the spokes


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fel·​ly ˈfel-lē How to pronounce felly (audio)
: fiercely, cruelly, destructively
Michael in return grasped the turnkey so felly by the throat that the blood gushed from nose and mouth, so that they were both gory and filthy spectacles when one of the other officers … entered the room …Sir Walter Scott

Word History



Middle English (plural) felien, velien, felewes, felowes, felouhes, felughes, going back to Old English felg, felge (feminine strong & weak noun), going back to West Germanic *felgō-, *felgōn- (whence also Old Saxon velga "felly," Middle Dutch velge, vellige, Old High German felga), of uncertain origin

Note: The two variants of this word in Modern English, felly and felloe, continue a much earlier divergence. Middle English felouhes/felughes show outcomes of a final voiceless velar fricative in Old English, while the semivowel /w/ in felewes/felowes has the outcome of a voiced velar fricative, and felien (whence modern felly) the outcome of a palatal glide. Lloyd, Lühr et al. (Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Althochdeutschen) believe these forms can be reconciled under a single vocalism e without positing a stem -*jō- or *-jōn- with umlaut of an original vowel a. The older literature suggests that the Germanic etymon is related to a set of Slavic words represented by Russian póloz "runner of a sled," Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian plâz "bottom of a plow frame," and with different vocalism Old Church Slavic plěžǫ, plĭzati "to crawl, creep," Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian pȕžēm, pȕzati, Russian pólzaju, pólzat'. The noun might be reconstructed as dialectal Indo-European *polǵh-o-. Opposed to this is the hypothesis of Lloyd, Lühr et al., who see Germanic *felgō- as meaning literally "something bent," and trace it to the Germanic verbal base seen in Old High German felahan "to put together, preserve," Old English fēolan "to make or force one's way," "to stick, adhere," Old Icelandic fela "to conceal, bury, entrust," and Gothic filhan "to bury, conceal." They assign to this remarkably polysemous class IV strong verb the single basic meaning "turn, turn about, bend" and see it as the outcome of an Indo-European verbal base *pelḱ-, formed by root extension from *pel-, which is found in zero-grade in Latin -plus "multiplied by" and in o-grade in Old English -feald "multiplied by" and fealdan "to fold," from *pol-to- (see -fold, fold entry 1). As other evidence for a hypothetical base *pelḱ- they cite Old Prussian pelkis "coat" (though a sibilant would be expected for k if the source was a palatovelar) and Germanic *falgō-/*falgjō(n)- "arable piece of land" and its cognates—see fallow entry 2.


Middle English felliche, felli, from fel fell entry 4 + -liche, li -ly entry 2

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of felly was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near felly

Cite this Entry

“Felly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/felly. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

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