How is it that the word stepney, and not the place in London called Stepney, came to mean ‘substitute wheel’ or ‘replacement wheel’ in a non-British variety of the English language? The word is spoken in Bangladesh, India, and Malta, all countries once colonised by the British.
Well, according to the OED, the word comes from the screw-on spare wheels that were manufactured in Stepney Street, Llanelli, South Wales. The wheels were exported to countries throughout the British Empire, and the word stepney stuck. So successful was this accessory of Empire that the stepney wheel was incorporated into the Llanelli coat of arms.
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