Where does the phrase “to put one’s shoulder to the wheel” come from and What does it mean?

The phrase “to put one’s shoulder to the wheel” means: To assist with might and main; to labor vigorously in behalf of a cause, project, etc.

In the physical sense one put one’s shoulder to the wheel to aid his horse in pulling a cart or other vehicle out of the mud or over an obstacle.

And when a horse required such aid, it was certain that vigorous effort was needed. No halfway measures are implied by the expression.

Figurative usage dates back to the seventeenth century, but I have no doubt that the captive Israelites under the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were often obliged to perform the task literally in the building of the pyramids.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

Leave a Comment