AskDefine | Define rotate

Dictionary Definition



1 turn on or around an axis or a center; "The Earth revolves around the Sun"; "The lamb roast rotates on a spit over the fire" [syn: revolve, go around]
2 exchange on a regular basis; "We rotate the lead soprano every night"
3 cause to turn on an axis or center; "Rotate the handle" [syn: circumvolve]
4 perform a job or duty on a rotating basis; "Interns have to rotate for a few months"
5 turn outward; "These birds can splay out their toes"; "ballet dancers can rotate their legs out by 90 degrees" [syn: turn out, splay, spread out]
6 plant or grow in a fixed cyclic order of succession; "We rotate the crops so as to maximize the use of the soil"

User Contributed Dictionary



From rotare, from Latin rota.


  • /ˈrɔʊteɪt/ (US) or /rəʊˈteɪt/ (UK)
  • /"rOUteIt/ (US) or /r@U"teIt/ (UK)

Intransitive verb

  1. to spin, turn, or revolve
    He rotated in his chair to face me.
  2. to advance through a sequence; to take turns
    The nurses' shifts rotate each week.


(to turn'')


to spin, turn, or revolve
to advance through a sequence; to take turns

Transitive verb

  1. to spin, turn, or revolve something
    Rotate the dial to the left.
  2. to advance something through a sequence
  3. to replace older materials or to place older materials in front of newer ones so that older ones get used first
    The supermarket rotates the stock daily so that old foods don't sit around.
  4. In the context of "of tires": to change which tire is on each corner of the car, so that they wear evenly
    Rotate your tires every 15,000 miles.
  5. In the context of "of crops": to grow or plant in a certain order


(to make turn)

Derived terms

Related terms


to spin, turn, or revolve
to advance through a sequence; to take turns
to spin, turn, or revolve something
to advance something through a sequence
to replace older materials or to place older materials in front of newer ones
to change which tire is on each corner of the car, so that they wear evenly



  1. Form of Second-person plural present tense, rotare
  2. Form of Second-person plural imperative, rotare#Italian|rotare

Extensive Definition

A rotation is a movement of an object in a circular motion. A two-dimensional object rotates around a center (or point) of rotation. A three-dimensional object rotates around a line called an axis. If the axis of rotation is within the body, the body is said to rotate upon itself, or spin—which implies relative speed and perhaps free-movement with angular momentum. A circular motion about an external point, e.g. the Earth about the Sun, is called an orbit or more properly an orbital revolution.


Mathematically, a rotation is, unlike a translation, a rigid body movement which keeps a point fixed. This definition applies to rotations within both two and three dimensions (in a plane and in space, respectively.) A rotation in three-dimensional space keeps an entire line fixed, i.e. a rotation in three-dimensional space is a rotation around an axis. This follows from Euler's rotation theorem.
All rigid body movements are rotations, translations, or combinations of the two.
If a rotation around a point or axis is followed by a second rotation around the same point/axis, a third rotation results. The reverse (inverse) of a rotation is also a rotation. Thus, the rotations around a point/axis form a group. However, a rotation around a point or axis and a rotation around a different point/axis may result in something other than a rotation, e.g. a translation.
Rotations around the x, y and z axes are called principal rotations. Rotation around any axis can be performed by taking a rotation around the x axis, followed by a rotation around the y axis, and followed by a rotation around the z axis. That is to say, any spatial rotation can be decomposed into a combination of principal rotations.
In flight dynamics, the principal rotations are known as pitch, roll and yaw (known as Tait-Bryan angles). This terminology is also used in computer graphics.


In astronomy, rotation is a commonly observed phenomenon. Stars, planets and similar bodies all spin around on their axes (the plural of axis). The rotation rate of planets in the solar system was first measured by tracking visual features. Stellar rotation is measured through Doppler shift or by tracking active surface features.
This rotation induces a centrifugal acceleration in the reference frame of the Earth which slightly counteracts the effect of gravity the closer one is to the equator. One effect is that an object weighs slightly less at the equator. Another is that the Earth is slightly deformed into an oblate spheroid.
Another consequence of the rotation of a planet is the phenomenon of precession. Like a gyroscope, the overall effect is a slight "wobble" in the movement of the axis of a planet. Currently the tilt of the Earth's axis to its orbital plane (obliquity of the ecliptic) is 23.45 degrees, but this angle changes slowly (over thousands of years). (See also Precession of the equinoxes and Pole star.)

Rotation and revolution

While revolution is often used as a synonym for rotation, in many fields, particularly astronomy and related fields, revolution, often referred to as orbital revolution for clarity, is used when one body moves around another while rotation is used to mean the movement around an axis. Moons revolve about their planet, planets revolve about their star (such as the Earth around the Sun); and stars slowly revolve about their galaxial center. The motion of the components of galaxies is complex, but it usually includes a rotation component.
The Moon makes one complete rotation during one complete orbital revolution around the Earth (an effect called tidal locking) so that the same side of the Moon always faces the Earth (the other side is called the far side of the Moon).

Retrograde rotation

Most planets in our solar system, including Earth, spin in the same direction as they orbit the Sun. The exceptions are Venus and Uranus. Uranus rotates nearly on its side relative to its orbit. Current speculation is that Uranus started off with a typical prograde orientation and was knocked on its side by a large impact early in its history. Venus may be thought of as rotating slowly backwards (or being "upside down"). The dwarf planet Pluto (formerly considered a planet) is anomalous in this and other ways.


The speed of rotation is given by the angular frequency (rad/s) or frequency (turns/s, turns/min), or period (seconds, days, etc.). The time-rate of change of angular frequency is angular acceleration (rad/s²), This change is caused by torque. The ratio of the two (how heavy is it to start, stop, or otherwise change rotation) is given by the moment of inertia.
The angular velocity vector also describes the direction of the axis of rotation. Similarly the torque is a vector.
According to the right-hand rule, the direction away from the observer is associated with clockwise rotation and the direction towards the observer with counterclockwise rotation, like a screw.


In flight dynamics, the principal rotations are known as pitch, roll and yaw. The term rotation is also used in aviation to refer to the upward pitch (nose moves up) of an aircraft, particularly when starting the climb after takeoff.

Amusement rides

Many amusement rides provide rotation. A Ferris wheel and observation wheel have a horizontal central axis, and parallel axes for each gondola, where the rotation is opposite, by gravity or mechanically. As a result at any time the orientation of the gondola is upright (not rotated), just translated. The tip of the translation vector describes a circle. A carousel provides rotation about a vertical axis. Many rides provide a combination of rotations about several axes. In Chair-O-Planes the rotation about the vertical axis is provided mechanically, while the rotation about the horizontal axis is due to the centripetal force. In roller coaster inversions the rotation about the horizontal axis is one or more full cycles, where inertia keeps people in their seats.


Rotation, usually called spin, plays a role in many sports. Topspin and backspin in tennis. English, follow and draw in billiards and pool. Curve balls in baseball and spin bowling in cricket. Table tennis paddles are specialized to allow players to spin the ball as they hit it.
rotate in Arabic: دوران
rotate in Czech: Rotace
rotate in Danish: Rotation
rotate in German: Rotation (Physik)
rotate in Spanish: Rotación
rotate in Esperanto: Rotacio
rotate in French: Rotation vectorielle
rotate in Galician: Rotación
rotate in Indonesian: Rotasi
rotate in Italian: Rotazione
rotate in Hungarian: Forgómozgás
rotate in Marathi: अक्ष
rotate in Japanese: 回転
rotate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Rotasjon
rotate in Polish: Obrót
rotate in Russian: Вращение
rotate in Slovenian: Vrtenje
rotate in Finnish: Pyörimisliike
rotate in Swedish: Rotation
rotate in Tamil: சுழற்சி
rotate in Thai: การหมุน
rotate in Ukrainian: Обертання
rotate in Chinese: 自转

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

advance, alternate, ascend, back, back up, bandy, be here again, become airborne, budge, change, change place, circle, circulate, circumrotate, circumvolute, clear, climb, come again, come and go, come around, come round, come round again, come up again, convert, crank, cycle, descend, ebb, ensue, evert, exchange, flow, fly aloft, follow, get over, go, go around, go round, go sideways, gyrate, gyre, interchange, intermit, introvert, intussuscept, invaginate, inverse, invert, jump off, leave the ground, mount, move, move over, oscillate, pirouette, pivot, plunge, progress, pronate, pulsate, pulse, reappear, recur, reel, regress, relieve, reoccur, repeat, resupinate, retrogress, return, reverse, revolve, rise, roll, roll around, round, run, screw, shift, sink, soar, spell, spin, stir, stream, subside, succeed, supinate, swap, swing, switch, swivel, take off, take turns, taxi, transpose, travel, turn, turn a pirouette, turn about, turn around, turn down, turn in, turn inside out, turn out, turn over, turn round, turn the scale, turn the tables, turn upside down, twirl, twist, undulate, wamble, wane, wheel, wheel around, whirl, wind
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