(1) If you hear someone say, "I have never ridden on an (revolving) observation wheel", it cannot be understood as anything but "I have never ridden a Ferris wheel", can it?

(2) Have you ever heard AmEng speakers saying "big wheel" for "Ferris wheel"? (As for BrEng speakers, it looks like many of them use "Ferris wheel" (for "big wheel") quite often nowadays?)

(3) ....On second thought, maybe the choice between "Ferris wheel" and "big wheel" is 100% location-specific, meaning that the residents use the term "Ferris wheel" in one British city but "big wheel" somewhere else in the UK?

If you could help me with these terms?...


A Ferris wheel is one of the rides set up in an amusement park, or a sideshow, state fair or world fair. It gets the name from a man named Ferris who designed the first one for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The fair included carnival rides, among them the original Ferris Wheel, built by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. Traditional Ferris Wheels were designed to be taken down and moved. They are temporary structures.

An observation wheel, like the London Eye, is quite different. It was built in the middle of the city, for tourists to have a bird's-eye view of the cityscape.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

In the US, or at least in the experience of this native of the US, a Ferris wheel is anything that does what it does - goes around vertically with people on it and stops to let them get on and off. All the other things like that, be they observation, big, whatever, are types of Ferris wheel. It has become a generic noun for many of us. Still, we are reluctant to call a thing like the London Eye a Ferris wheel, because it is so different from the fairground ride, the one with the open bench seats slung under axles, and we welcome whatever jargon their creators want us to use. But I still don't know what to call that thing in Vienna.

In the US, there is only one term for this: Ferris wheel. If you said "observation wheel" or "big wheel", people wouldn't know what you're talking about. Moreover, the term "big wheel" is slang for a prominent - but crude - person.

AlpheccaStars/Anonymous/Anonumous - I really appreciate your help. Thanks a lot!

What is especially valuable in my mind .... it's when you English teachers are trying to somehow "generalize" or "widen" the learner's original query (if such "widening" is possible of course) ... like with

anonymousMoreover, the term "big wheel" is slang for a prominent - but crude - person.

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