Monocycle/Unicycle distinction in other languages?

This was raised in another thread and was a bit off-topic so I’ve started a new thread for it…

Is English the only language to distinguish between a monocycle (in English means a single-wheeled vehicle where the rider sits inside the wheel) and a unicycle (rider on top of the wheel)?

I know in some languages, such as French, monocycle means the same as unicycle in English, but is there another word for what we call a monocycle? Do any other languages have two separate words for these types of one-wheeled machines?



Here in brazil “Monociclo” is used for unicycles… the most used!..
Some peoples say “Uniciclo”…But for unicycles too… Both for Unicycles… not motorized one wheeled machines…

In my school dictionary Monociclo means: A one wheeled Bike, very comun on circus! ( :angry: )


I used the term unicikel for a year and a half, and then, due to other riders’ pressure, started using monocikel. I still like to say unicikel, for old times’ sake.

I’d have to read up on it, but the possible origin of the distinction between those two words for English may be Dr. Jack Wiley, in his 1973 The Unicycle Book. This distinction has been accepted by the unicycling community (and at least a few of the monocycle people I’ve heard from).

Unicycling is generally less “advanced” or at least talked about in most countries, so the need for a distinction may not have come up. I remember in 1983 Jean Ascher (of Cirkus Changhigh) told me there were three different ways to say “unicycle” in Danish, and that none was “official.” I suggested to him that establishing an official one was up to him, as he was starting up an organization called the Dansk (Unicycle) Union. From what I see on the Unicon XIV web site, they are now using the one Jean mentioned he preferred, “unicykel.”

So you think it’s that recent a distinction then? That’s interesting. A few people of my parents’ generation have called my unicycles “monocycles”, but if the distinction is really that recent then they are not “wrong” after all - perhaps until the early '70s the two words were used interchangably.


What!? I’m danish and I can only think of two ways to say unicycle: unicykel and ethjulet cykel. Do you remember what the third is? Maybe no one uses the word anymore, but it was used in '83?

EDIT: The most used for non-unicyclists is ethjulet cykel, and the most used by unicyclists is unicykel.

are there purists around (Ms Ayelery?) to note that “unicycle” is a strange build mixing roman and greek roots (“monocycle” is more orthogonal). - we are not using “duocycles” -
Someone from Malta posted a word in maltese that looked to me a mix of different origins (arabic and roman: but those islanders are used to such “lingua franca”).
as usual german is logic with “einrad”.

some creative slang will be welcomed to create a new word!

I can’t remember. The third one may not have been used by anyone, but may have been another possible way to say it, such as monocykel or something. You can always try contacting Jean Ascher for the “full” story…

Interesting that in France, the official word is monocycle, yet in Quebec (French speaking Canada) they use Unicyclette. May not be “official”, seeing as how Canada even now doesn’t have a national unicycling organization, but that’s what they used back when they hosted Unicons V and VI.

… but aeroplanes are called triplanes, biplanes , and monoplanes depending, of course, on how many wings

I havent heard of a monoplane being called a uniplane so mono-cycle, bi-cycle and tri-cycle seem to fit the bill; at least in line with aeroplanes - so where does the ‘uni’ bit come from?

hmmm… just a thought…maybe it stems from the term Unison meaning something like:
A combination of parts harmonising exactly
A technique in which all the aspects play at the same time.

Kind of like synchronising and balancing?

I’m from Quebec, I speak French, and I never heard “Unicyclette” before. most people say unicycle or one-wheeled-bike but the real word in french is monocycle…and I heard a bike with one pedal! :thinking:

The spelling may be wrong. Pronunciation was like “ooo-nee-seek”.

yeah, French people dont pronunce it like the English word, they pronunce it like if they were reading the word in French. But it’s unicycle, without the same pronunciation.

Liguistically, “mono” comes from the Greek “mons” (alone), while “bi” is from the Latin “bis” (twice). “Bi” as a Greek root is from “bios” (life), and is not numeric (biology, etc.). “Tri” actually has both Greek (“treis”, three) and Latin (“tres”, three) roots.

“Uni” is from the Latin “unus” (one).

So it seems the French have it wrong; it makes more logical linguistic sense to use “uni” as the parallel to “bi” and “tri” than to use “mono.” Or else we should be riding duocycles.