Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

WORD ORIGIN

1903, from free wheel (1899, see free (adj.) + wheel); a bicycle wheel that turns even when not being pedaled, later from the name of a kind of automobile drive system that allowed cars to coast without being slowed by the engine. Figurative sense is from 1911.