Wheel of Fortune Glossary

wheel of fortune
courtesy Sony Entertainment

Wheel of Fortune is one of those shows that's been around so long that everyone knows how it works and what it's all about. The show has been the source of at least one massively-popular catch phrase, and has several terms that are used regularly during game play.

Here are some of the most common terms used on the show, along with their meanings and/or their applications within the game.

The Wheel

You can't have Wheel of Fortune without the Wheel itself! The wheel is at the heart of the game, and consists of a collection of wedges. Each wedge contains either a dollar amount or a special game piece. The wheel is spun by contestants to determine the value of the consonants they guess correctly in the puzzle. There are also instructions to be found, such as Lose a Turn, or prizes to be picked up.


As mentioned above, the wedges are sections of the wheel. The term "wedge" is usually used on the show in conjunction with a special prize or opportunity, such as the Free Play wedge. It's also been used in promotions, such as the fun addition of the show's Spokeswedge, $5K.

Toss Up Puzzle

Toss-Up puzzles are played before each regular round, and are worth a pre-determined amount of money. Letters in the puzzle are revealed slowly and the first person to guess the answer wins the round and starts the subsequent regular round.

Speed Up Round

The Speed-Up round is the last regular round of the game. It starts off as usual, but mid-way through a bell sounds and Pat Sajak announces that they're running out of time. He gives the wheel a final spin, and whatever wedge he lands on determines the value of consonants for the duration of the puzzle. Vowels are worth nothing but may be guessed. Contestants take turns guessing letters and attempting to solve until the round is complete. (Fun Fact: If Pat's spin lands on Bankrupt or Lose a Turn, this is edited out and he spins again.)

Prize Puzzle

Each episode includes a Prize Puzzle, which offers a special prize to the winner of that round. Prizes can be anything from luxury items to trips. The unique appeal of the Prize Puzzle is that contestants try to solve them as quickly as possible, rather than continuing to spin to earn more cash in order to score the prize.

Bonus Round

The Bonus Round is the final round of the game, played by the contestant who earned the most in cash and prizes through the regular rounds. To start off with, the contestant spins a small wheel that contains envelopes identifying prizes available to be won. After landing on and selecting his or her prize envelope, the contestant is then presented with the final puzzle. The letters R, S, T, L, N, and E are all provided. Three more consonants and one more vowel are chosen, and the contestant has ten seconds to solve the puzzle. Afterwards, the selected envelope is opened to see what prize he or she has won (or failed to win).

Before & After Category

Each puzzle has a category, which gives contestants a hint to the puzzle's solution. There are many different standard categories, such as Food & Drink or What Are You Doing? One of the most interesting categories is Before & After, which ties two different phrases together with a common word. Examples of Before & After puzzles include:

  • Do the Funky Chicken Noodle Soup
  • The Good the Bad and The Ugly Duckling
  • Nancy Drew Barrymore

The Wheelmobile

The Wheelmobile isn't referenced on the show very often, but it's become a part of the show's identity nonetheless. Anyone who wants to be a contestant on the show should definitely brush up on this definition!