The Ordinary is the official name for the old-fashioned bicycle with the massively oversized front wheel (sometimes called a "high-wheeler"). The idea was invented by James Starley of Coventry, England, and the first Ordinary manufactured was a brand called the Ariel manufactured in England in 1872; before this time, there had only been the velocipede, a wood-and-iron bicycle (even the wheels) which could weigh up to 100 pounds and had its pedals on the front wheel. Ordinaries were made of lighter tubular steel and had tires of solid rubber with wire spokes in the middle, making them both lighter to lift and less bone-rattling to ride. The pedals were still on the front wheel, but the large circumference of the front wheel made the same amount of pedaling go farther, since gears were not used until the rear-wheel-driven safety bicycle of the 1890s. The rider had to sit up high, above the large wheel, just to reach the pedals and still be sitting upright; the small back wheel was just for balance.

The first American Ordinaries were manufactured in 1877, and within a few years they became a craze in the U.S.; the League of American Wheelmen was founded in 1880 and immediately started to campaign for better road surfaces and were quite effective in getting roads paved. ("Wheelmen" is quite accurate; the long skirts of the era prevented women from riding an Ordinary unless they were daring enough to wear pants.) It required courage for anyone to ride an Ordinary; their brakes were not all that effective and a lot of riders were pitched over the straight front handlebars when they ran into an obstacle. Or they just fell off; even getting on wasn't all that easy. But Ordinaries were still popular enough that accessories such as chain and lock sets, bike stands, bells or whistles to announce that you were coming, saddlebags, odometers, and oil lanterns for night riding could all be bought by 1879.

At the time, these were just called bicycles; the names Ordinary or high-wheeler came into use around 1890 as the safety bicycle with two wheels the same size came into use. "Penny-farthing" was another name for the Ordinary in England, since the two wheels looked like a penny and a farthing coin next to one another. The Japanese name for the Ordinary was "daruma jitensha" or "ichirinsha." As this shows, the Ordinary spread all around the world; by 1884 Australia had 30 bicycling clubs. However, the increased ease and reduced risk of the safety bicycle meant that in the 1890s, the Ordinary became obsolete.

Ierley, Merritt. Wondrous Contrivances: Technology at the Threshold. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2002.

It was an ordinary day
nothing unusual at all
Traffic was better than average, 
lunch was fair, without being cold
It was mundane, 
which was ok, but
The sunset changed everything 
a bright pink mixed with fading blue
waves of pearl coloured clouds
It was an ordinary day
with a grand exit 
Sometimes an average play can be saved
with a terrific final act

Or"di*na*ry (?), a. [L. ordinarius, fr. ordo, ordinis, order: cf. F. ordinaire. See Order.]


According to established order; methodical; settled; regular.

"The ordinary forms of law."



Common; customary; usual.


Method is not less reguisite in ordinary conversation that in writing. Addison.


Of common rank, quality, or ability; not distinguished by superior excellence or beauty; hence, not distinguished in any way; commonplace; inferior; of little merit; as, men of ordinary judgment; an ordinary book.

An ordinary lad would have acquired little or no useful knowledge in such a way. Macaulay.

Ordinary seaman Naut., one not expert or fully skilled, and hence ranking below an able seaman.

Syn. -- Normal; common; usual; customary. See Normal. -- Ordinary, Common. A thing is common in which many persons share or partake; as, a common practice. A thing is ordinary when it is apt to come round in the regular common order or succession of events.


© Webster 1913.

Or"di*na*ry, n.; pl. Ordinaries ().

1. Law (a) RomanLaw

An officer who has original jurisdiction in his own right, and not by deputation.

(b) Eng.Law

One who has immediate jurisdiction in matters ecclesiastical; an ecclesiastical judge; also, a deputy of the bishop, or a clergyman appointed to perform divine service for condemned criminals and assist in preparing them for death.

(c) Am.Law

A judicial officer, having generally the powers of a judge of probate or a surrogate.


The mass; the common run.


I see no more in you than in the ordinary Of nature's salework. Shak.


That which is so common, or continued, as to be considered a settled establishment or institution.


Spain had no other wars save those which were grown into an ordinary. Bacon.


Anything which is in ordinary or common use.

Water buckets, wagons, cart wheels, plow socks, and other ordinaries. Sir W. Scott.


A dining room or eating house where a meal is prepared for all comers, at a fixed price for the meal, in distinction from one where each dish is separately charged; a table d'hote; hence, also, the meal furnished at such a dining room.


All the odd words they have picked up in a coffeehouse, or a gaming ordinary, are produced as flowers of style. Swift.

He exacted a tribute for licenses to hawkers and peddlers and to ordinaries. Bancroft.

6. Her.

A charge or bearing of simple form, one of nine or ten which are in constant use. The bend, chevron, chief, cross, fesse, pale, and saltire are uniformly admitted as ordinaries. Some authorities include bar, bend sinister, pile, and others. See Subordinary.

In ordinary. (a) In actual and constant service; statedly attending and serving; as, a physician or chaplain in ordinary. An ambassador in ordinary is one constantly resident at a foreign court. (b) Naut. Out of commission and laid up; -- said of a naval vessel. -- Ordinary of the Mass R. C. Ch., the part of the Mass which is the same every day; -- called also the canon of the Mass.


© Webster 1913.

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