Put a Spoke in Someone’s Wheel – Meaning, Origin & Examples

put a spoke in someone's wheel definition and examples, explained below

The idiom “put a spoke in someone’s wheel” is utilized to describe the act of deliberately obstructing or interfering with someone’s plans or actions. It implies a deliberate act to hinder or thwart someone.

It’s often used when someone deliberately creates a difficulty or obstacle for another person, especially to prevent them from doing something they have planned.

Example: When Lisa learned about the plan her colleagues were hatching, she found a way to “put a spoke in their wheel.”

chrisAbout the Author: has a PhD in Education. He has been a teacher in schools and universities and has taught English as a Second Language in Colombia. He is former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

Origins of the Idiom “Put a Spoke in Someone’s Wheel”

The phrase has roots that trace back to the practices associated with wagon wheels in previous centuries. The following provides a comprehensive dive into its genesis:

  • Wheel-Making Practices: Historically, wagon wheels were crafted using spokes, which are the rods radiating from the center hub to the wheel rim. When a spoke was inserted during the wheel-making process, it halted the wheel’s ability to turn. Deliberately putting a spoke into a wheel could therefore intentionally inhibit its motion.
  • Symbolizing Obstruction: The literal action of placing a spoke in a wheel to obstruct its movement naturally evolved into a metaphor for any action intended to obstruct or derail a process or plan. The idiom became popularized to depict an intentional act of interference or sabotage.

The idiom, while perhaps not as prevalent as “beat around the bush,” continues to roll through our contemporary language, illustrating human tendencies toward disruption and interference.

10 Examples in a Sentence

  • “She always finds a way to put a spoke in my wheel whenever I try to implement changes.”
  • “The competitor company put a spoke in their wheel by launching a similar product just days before theirs.”
  • “Just when I thought my plan was going smoothly, my rival put a spoke in my wheel.”
  • “He always tries to put a spoke in our wheel when he feels left out of the planning process.”
  • “I won’t let anyone put a spoke in my wheel when it comes to achieving my dream.”
  • “She didn’t want him to leave, so she put a spoke in his wheel by hiding his passport.”
  • “Unexpected financial costs put a spoke in our wheel as we were starting the business.”
  • “They tried to put a spoke in our wheel by spreading false rumors about our project.”
  • “Don’t let anyone put a spoke in your wheel; continue pursuing your ambitions.”
  • “His sudden resignation really put a spoke in our wheel regarding the ongoing project.”

Practice Questions Worksheet for Students

Question 1: What emotion might you feel if someone puts a spoke in your wheel?

  • a) Grateful
  • b) Frustrated
  • c) Excited
  • d) Content

Question 2: Which situation below can be an example of putting a spoke in someone’s wheel?

  • a) Helping a friend move to a new house.
  • b) Giving honest feedback to a colleague.
  • c) Sabotaging a team member’s presentation.
  • d) Congratulating someone on their success.

Question 3: If someone “puts a spoke in your wheel” during a competition, what are they trying to do?

  • a) Help you win
  • b) Sabotage your chance of winning
  • c) Cheer for you
  • d) Ignore you

Question 4: In what context might you hear the phrase “don’t put a spoke in my wheel”?

  • a) When someone is being supportive
  • b) When someone is obstructing progress
  • c) When someone is indifferent
  • d) When someone is being congratulated

Similar Idioms

1. Throw a wrench into the works

Definition: To cause a problem, especially one that stops a plan or activity from succeeding.

In a Sentence: “The sudden withdrawal of a major sponsor threw a wrench into the event’s works.”

2. Upset the applecart

Definition: To do something that spoils a plan or stops the normal progress of something.

In a Sentence: “He upset the applecart by revealing the product before its official launch.”

3. Rock the boat

Definition: To do or say something that causes trouble.

In a Sentence: “I don’t want to rock the boat, so I kept silent during the meeting.”

4. Derail

Definition: To cause something to fail.

In a Sentence: “His critical feedback threatened to derail the entire proposal.”

5. Gum up the works

Definition: To make a process or system work less effectively.

In a Sentence: “Constant changes and revisions can gum up the works of any project.”

6. Throw a monkey wrench

Definition: To sabotage or interfere with something.

In a Sentence: “They tried to throw a monkey wrench into our plans by withholding information.”

7. Be a fly in the ointment

Definition: To be a small problem or annoyance that spoils something.

In a Sentence: “The only fly in the ointment during our vacation was the lack of internet access.”

8. Capsize

Definition: To cause something to overturn or fail.

In a Sentence: “His sudden departure nearly capsized the team’s morale and progress.”

9. Foil

Definition: To prevent something from succeeding.

In a Sentence: “The superhero foiled the villain’s plans to take over the city.”

10. Stand in one’s way

Definition: To block one’s progress.

In a Sentence: “No obstacle stood in her way as she persevered toward her goal.”

11. Be a stumbling block

Definition: To be an obstacle or hindrance.

In a Sentence: “Lack of funding has always been a stumbling block for the initiative.”

12. Nip it in the bud

Definition: To stop a problem from becoming serious by dealing with it as soon as it starts.

In a Sentence: “They nipped the dispute in the bud before it could escalate further.”

13. Put a damper on

Definition: To make a situation less enjoyable or cheerful.

In a Sentence: “The unexpected rain put a damper on our outdoor event.”

14. Scuttle

Definition: To deliberately cause a plan or proposal to fail.

In a Sentence: “She attempted to scuttle the agreement by raising last-minute objections.”

15. Sabotage

Definition: To deliberately destroy or obstruct something.

In a Sentence: “The rival company tried to sabotage our launch by spreading false rumors.”

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