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We all know what "taxi" means to general public -- a car which carries you from A to B in exchange for your paying a fare.

"Taxi" also means to drive an aircraft on the ground. Why do we call it that? What's the reason & history behind the term?

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    $\begingroup$ You might get an answer on english.SE if no one here knows; they have a lot of etymology questions $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Sep 9 '15 at 14:25
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The verb, "to taxi," as it relates to a moving airplane on the ground, dates to about 1911. The verb appears to be derived from the noun, "taxi," referring to a nearly flightless training aircraft that dates to about 1909. The word may allude to driving around like a taxicab, as others surmise, or it may relate to the fact that flight instructors gave rides to new students in the "taxi" airplane. Eventually, they started calling getting around on the ground (or water) "taxiing." The expression started at Henri Farman's flight school outside Paris, and was later picked up by pilots at flight schools in England.

A "taxi" had shorter wings and a heavier body, so that it could not really take off and fly away at the hands of a new pilot, but a new pilot could get the feel of handling the aircraft and learn to take off and fly short distances, especially downhill along a slope.

See: http://esnpc.blogspot.com/2016/05/flight-school-taxis-history-and.html

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This online etymological site suggests that an airplane moves slowly across the field in a similar fashion to how a taxi-cab driver would slowly make his way down a block looking for fares, and the term is borrowed from that behavior.

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    $\begingroup$ The link to Dictionary.com also describes the use of taxi as "Shuttling back and forth between two points" - just like you would between runway and stand. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 9 '15 at 15:40
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I'll throw a thought in the mix although the term most likely pre-dates this: When you are running a plane on the tarmac the "meter" is literally running since the engines are on. Much like the meter that starts running when you get in a taxi cab. There is no worse feeling than renting a plane for a nice day of flying and getting stuck in a departure line watching the Hobbs slowly tick on while you sit there hopelessly.

Interestingly the history of the word "taxi" as we use it for cars dates from the word taximeter the device installed in taxicabs to measure fare. Which comes from the french taxer-mètre. The evolution may come from the fact that the ground operations of the aircraft are part of the ticket which you paid for.

(Its a long shot but its worth a thought)

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    $\begingroup$ Although I don't think this is the answer, I up-voted it anyway cuz I can just imagine how that feels! $\endgroup$ – kevin Sep 9 '15 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ Horray for fields with low traffic volume. :) I don't think I've ever had more than 1 airplane in front of me for takeoff at the field I'm normally flying from. $\endgroup$ – reirab Sep 9 '15 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ This seems to be purely speculative. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Aug 11 '16 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ This is purely speculative but anyone who has ever rented a plane knows this feeling, and its terrible. Taxing has been going on far longer than hobbs meters have been measuring engine time. $\endgroup$ – Dave Aug 12 '16 at 13:05

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