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Someone who has no real place or purpose in a situation, likened to a superfluous extra wheel on a four-wheeled vehicle. I didn't realize that the party was for couples only, so when I showed up alone, I felt like a fifth wheel.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Fig. an unwelcome or extra person. I don't like living with my son and daughter-in-law. I feel like a fifth wheel. Bill always begs to come on camping trips with us, but really, he's a fifth wheel.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
An extra and unnecessary person or thing, as in He was the only one without a date, so he felt like a fifth wheel. This expression, which alludes to an unneeded wheel on a four-wheel vehicle, may have originated as long ago as 1631, when Thomas Dekker wrote Match Me in London: "Thou tiest but wings to a swift gray Hounds heel, And addest to a running Chariot a fifth wheel."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a fifth wheelor
a third wheelAMERICAN
A fifth wheel or a third wheel in a situation is someone who is not needed or wanted there. As a single person, you're somewhat of a third wheel when traveling with couples. I just wanted to feel like part of the family instead of a fifth wheel. I wanted to feel like I belonged! Note: A fifth wheel on a car or a third wheel on a bicycle would be unnecessary.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a fifth/third ˈwheel(American English) an unwanted, extra or unnecessary person: No, I don’t think I’ll join you. Whenever I go out with you guys I just feel like a fifth wheel.
This refers to adding an extra unnecessary wheel to a vehicle.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
n. an extra and unneeded person. I feel like such a fifth wheel around here.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
An unneeded extra, a superfluous person or thing. This expression was already listed as a proverb in the sixteenth century in a French collection; in its complete form it pointed out that the fifth wheel on a wagon does nothing but impede it (C. B. Bouelles, Proverbia Vulgaria, 1531). Thomas Dekker repeated it in a play (Match Me in London, 1631, Act I), again in fairly literal fashion: “Thou tyest but wings to a swift gray hounds heele, and addest to a running charriot a fift Wheele.” But it also was being used figuratively during this period, and has continued to be ever since.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer