pennyfarthing "ineffective," 1887. The noun, in ref. to the kind of bicycle with a small wheel in back and a big one in front (so called from the notion of different size coins) is first recorded 1927, long after the bicycles of this type (introduced 1860s) were obsolete. The contemporary names for them seem to have been ordinary and bone-shaker. The modern type of bicycle, with a low seat and wheels roughly the same size, was called a safety bicycle (1877).

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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