fifth wheel


: a horizontal wheel or segment of a wheel that consists of two parts rotating on each other above the fore axle of a carriage and that forms support to prevent tipping
: a similar coupling between tractor and trailer of a semitrailer
: one that is superfluous, unnecessary, or burdensome

Example Sentences

He felt more and more like a fifth wheel at the office.
Recent Examples on the Web Get factory-direct prices on top RV brands and see the latest floorplans on a fifth wheel with a large kitchen or a compact camper van. Brendel Hightower, Detroit Free Press, 7 Jan. 2023 Cameras help the driver line up a hitch or fifth wheel, and there's an optional accessory camera for the back of a trailer to give drivers a view behind them. Jack Fitzgerald, Car and Driver, 6 Oct. 2022 Hey, who hasn't been the fifth wheel at some point? Aimée Lutkin, ELLE, 8 May 2022 For me, the fifth wheel; for them; for society en masse. Ali Francis, Bon Appétit, 24 Nov. 2021 Silverstar Lite fifth wheel and travel trailers equipped with a Winntec model 6020 two-stage propane regulator. Detroit Free Press, 26 June 2021 Maggie accepts but initially feels like a fifth wheel. Jeanne Jakle, San Antonio Express-News, 24 June 2021 The price varies based on the model and staging among other factors, but the minimum budget required is $50,000 for a fifth wheel or $30,000 for a travel trailer. Kelly Allen, House Beautiful, 11 Aug. 2020 The fifth-wheel landing legs may not be seated properly with enough space between the brackets which are welded to the chassis, allowing the fifth wheel to slip down the landing leg and can puncture the floor of the vehicle. Detroit Free Press, 10 July 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fifth wheel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1874, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of fifth wheel was circa 1874

Dictionary Entries Near fifth wheel

Cite this Entry

“Fifth wheel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on fifth wheel

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!