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type of light four-wheeled carriage, 1742, from French (1735), from Greek Phaethon name of the son of Helios and Clymene, who tried to drive his father's sun-chariot but crashed after almost setting fire to the whole earth. His name is literally "shining," from phaein "to shine, gleam," from phaos "light" (see fantasy). Earlier as a name for a reckless driver (1590s).
open, four-wheeled, doorless carriage, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It contained one or two seats, usually had a folding, or falling, top, and was owner-driven (i.e., it had no outside driver's seat). The most spectacular phaeton was the English four-wheeled high-flyer, the body of which consisted of a light seat for two, resting atop two sets of springs and reached by ladder.