paddle wheel

noun
a wheel for propelling a ship, having a number of paddles entering the water more or less perpendicularly.

Origin:
1675–85

paddle-wheel, adjective
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World English Dictionary
paddle wheel
 
n
a large wheel fitted with paddles, turned by an engine to propel a vessel on the water

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

paddle wheel

method of ship propulsion that was once widely employed but is now almost entirely superseded by the screw propeller. Early experiments with steam-driven paddles acting as oars led several inventors, including Robert Fulton, to mount the paddles in a wheel form, either at the stern or at the sides of the vessel.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
In the simplest form, the paddle wheel blade is pushing on the water.
To accommodate the side barges, the paddle wheel was moved to the stern of the
  boat.
Because the fleshy prawn has migration habit, water flow should be maintained
  using paddle wheel aerators.
Later vessels were of the propeller type rather than paddle wheel, and had
  deeper drafts and were more enclosed.
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