1819, "wheeled vehicle propelled by alternate thrusts of each foot on the ground," 1819, from French vélocipède (19c.), from Latin velox (genitive velocis) "swift, speedy" (see velocity) + pedem, accusative of pes "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot"). The mechanical ancestor of the bicycle, it was tinkered with and improved; the name continued for some time and was applied to an early kind of modern bicycle or tricycle from 1849. See bicycle (n.).
The Velocipede has been introduced into England, under letters patent, by Mr. Johnson, a coachmaker in Long-Acre, by whom it has been greatly improved, both in lightness and strength. "The road from Ipswich to Whitton," says the Bury paper, "is travelled every evening by several pedestrian hobby-horses; no less than six are seen at a time, and the distance, which is 3 miles, is performed in 15 minutes." [The Athenaeum, May 1, 1819]
updated on August 23, 2020