Word Confusion: Pedal vs Peddle vs Petal

Posted December 18, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Arghhh! I cannot believe how often I run across this word confusion. I’ve seen pedal confused for peddle so many times that I’m starting to get confused!

Sellers may peddle their wares, and they may pedal their wares to market. They may also pedal their wares over to people. They will, however, never peddle their wares in a bike over to people, although they may peddle their wares to people from a bike or pedal their wares to people…on a bike.

Just because the words sound similar doesn’t mean that a pedal refers to anything but an object that is operated by foot to cause movement. To peddle is to sell while petal has a much softer purpose. To bring beauty, to provide a metaphor to describe a maiden’s cheek, to brightly surround the reproductive organs of a flower. Three very distinct concepts.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Pedal vs Peddle vs Petal” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Pedal Peddle Petal
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Close-up of the pedal on a mountain bike

Image by Cyril Vallée from Bulle, Switzerland (Mountain Bike (2)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 or CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One uses pedals on a bike.

Vegetable market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Image courtesy of Justin Watt via Wikimedia Commons

Entrepreneurs peddling vegetables in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Hydragena petals

Image by Darrell.barrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A close-up of hydrangea petals.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1; Noun 2;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: pedals
Past tense or past participle: pedaled [U.S.], pedalled [British] Gerund or present participle: pedaling [U.S.], pedalling [British]

Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: peddles
Past tense or past participle: peddled
Gerund or present participle: peddling

Combined Form 3; Noun 4
Of or relating to a pedal or pedals

Using pedals

[Chiefly medicine, zoology] Of or relating to the foot or feet

Foot-operated lever or control for a vehicle, musical instrument, or other mechanism, in particular:

  • Each of a pair of cranks used for powering a bicycle or other vehicle propelled by leg power
  • Foot-operated throttle, brake, or clutch control in a motor vehicle
  • Each of a set of two or three levers on a piano

[Music, usually plural, pedals] Each key of an organ keyboard that is played with the feet

Verb, intransitive:
Move by working the pedals of a bicycle

Work the pedals of a bicycle

Use the pedals of a piano, especially in a particular style

Verb, transitive:
Work the pedals of an organ, bicycle, etc., in order to operate it

Sell an illegal drug or stolen item

Verb, intransitive:
To go from place to place with goods, wares, etc., for sale at retail

[Archaic] To occupy oneself with trifles

  • Trifle

Verb, transitive:
Try to sell something, especially small goods by going from house to house or place to place

To deal out, distribute, or dispense, especially in small quantities

To peddle radical ideas

Sell an illegal drug or stolen item

[Derogatory] Promotion of an idea or view persistently or widely

Combined Form:
Used in the formation of compound words meaning seeking or moving toward that specified by the initial element

Each of the segments of the corolla of a flower, which are modified leaves and are typically colored

I love the pedal boats at the lake.

She emptied the ashtray into the pedal bin.

Now this gadget uses a pedal mechanism.

He practically stood on the brake pedal.

His foot slipped off the pedal of his bike.

Put the pedal to the metal, baby.

Verb, intransitive:
They pedaled along the canal towpath.

He was coming down the path on his bike, pedaling hard.

Chopin gave no indications of pedaling in his manuscript.

Verb, transitive:
She was pedaling a bicycle around town.

She pedaled fast and furious on that old organ.

Certain youths who were involved in theft and drug peddling.

‘Twas a peddling of dangerous socialism

Verb, intransitive:
He peddled from door-to-door.

There was little of significance in what he peddled.

Verb, transitive:
He peddled vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

They caught the guy who was peddling heroin to schoolkids.

He peddled art and printing materials around the country.

He criticized his fellow candidate for peddling risky ideas.

Combined Form:
“Basipetal … transport in Arabidopsis roots was inhibited by NPA, whereas the movement of … benzoic acid was not affected” (Plant Physiology).

Acropetal is the opposite of basipetal in that it opens from the base towards the apex in sequence (The Difference Between).

Centripetal is an actual force, as opposed to centrifugal force which is an apparent force.

Strewing rose petals for a lover is considered romantic.

The flowers in the bouquet were dropping their petals.

He did not disturb so much as a petal.

Her cheeks were like petals to the touch.

Noun: pedaler, pedaller Adjective: unpeddled
Noun: peddler, peddling, pedlar
Verb: repeddle
Verb, transitive: repeddled, repeddling
Adjective: petal-like, petaled, petalled, petaline, petalless, petallike, unpetaled
Noun: petalage
History of the Word:
1 Early 17th century straight from the Latin pedalis from pes, ped- meaning foot.

2 Early 17th century denoting a foot-operated lever of an organ from the French pédale, which is from the Italian pedale, which is from the Latin pedalis meaning a foot in length from pes, ped- meaning foot.

1525-35, as a back-formation from pedlar. 3 New Latin -pet (us) seeking, derivative of Latin petere to seek + -al1

4 Early 18th century from the modern Latin petalum (in late Latin, it meant metal plate), which is from the Greek petalon which means leaf.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Return to top