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When and why has "bike" developed from "bicycle"?

It’s not obvious for me why and when bike developed as short form from bicycle. Could you explain that, please? And is it odd to say mountain bicycle or motor-bicycle?

English Language & Usage Asked on November 11, 2021

2 Answers

2 Answers

Originally taken from Latin: bi meaning two + Greek: kuklos meaning wheel; bikuklos not easy to say in French or English! So the first K becomes softened to an S sound or "c", as cycle or sickle, hence "bicycle". Original word "bi-kuklos" becomes phonetically abbreviated to "bike".

Answered by Fiona Keane on November 11, 2021

This link would seem to be the definitive analysis of this contraction, from bicycle to bike (preview only without subscription):

There is, however, a possible explanation from generative phonology which is quite straightforward. Generative phonology postulates underlying segments that differ from their phonetic realization if doing so will allow generalizations that could not otherwise be captured in the grammar. ....

Apparently, contrary to popular belief, bicycle did not come from French to English, but rather most likely went from English to French.

Answered by Pieter Geerkens on November 11, 2021

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