rev·​o·​lu·​tion ˌre-və-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce revolution (audio)
: the action by a celestial body of going round in an orbit or elliptical course
also : apparent movement of such a body round the earth
: the time taken by a celestial body to make a complete round in its orbit
: the rotation of a celestial body on its axis
: completion of a course (as of years)
also : the period made by the regular succession of a measure of time or by a succession of similar events
: a progressive motion of a body around an axis so that any line of the body parallel to the axis returns to its initial position while remaining parallel to the axis in transit and usually at a constant distance from it
: motion of any figure about a center or axis
revolution of a right triangle about one of its legs generates a cone
: a sudden, radical, or complete change
: a fundamental change in political organization
especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
: activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
: a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm
the Copernican revolution
: a changeover in use or preference especially in technology
the computer revolution
the foreign car revolution

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Revolution and Revolt

Revolution and revolt have a shared origin, both ultimately going back to the Latin revolvere “to revolve, roll back.” When revolution first appeared in English in the 14th century, it referred to the movement of a celestial body in orbit; that sense was extended to “a progressive motion of a body around an axis,” “completion of a course,” and other senses suggesting regularity of motion or a predictable return to an original position. At virtually the same time, the word developed a sharply different meaning, namely, ”a sudden radical, or complete change,” apparently from the idea of reversal of direction implicit in the Latin verb. Revolt , which initially meant “to renounce allegiance,” grew from the same idea of “rolling back,” in this case from a prior bond of loyalty.

Choose the Right Synonym for revolution

rebellion, revolution, uprising, revolt, insurrection, mutiny mean an outbreak against authority.

rebellion implies an open formidable resistance that is often unsuccessful.

open rebellion against the officers

revolution applies to a successful rebellion resulting in a major change (as in government).

a political revolution that toppled the monarchy

uprising implies a brief, limited, and often immediately ineffective rebellion.

quickly put down the uprising

revolt and insurrection imply an armed uprising that quickly fails or succeeds.

a revolt by the Young Turks that surprised party leaders
an insurrection of oppressed laborers

mutiny applies to group insubordination or insurrection especially against naval authority.

a mutiny led by the ship's cook

Examples of revolution in a Sentence

The group started a revolution. The king knew that there was a threat of revolution. This new theory could cause a revolution in elementary education. the revolution of the Earth around the Sun The period of revolution of the Earth around the Sun is equal to one year. The Earth makes one revolution on its axis in about 24 hours. This motor operates at a speed of 5,000 revolutions per minute. See More
Recent Examples on the Web This internal conflict drives Asha’s personal destiny, and from there, inspires a revolution among the people of Rosas. Ken Makin, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Nov. 2023 With OpenAI now a major AI firm that could even rattle a giant like Google, Altman was a leader of the latest computing revolution. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 17 Nov. 2023 Some musicians are embracing the AI revolution despite such issues. WIRED, 16 Nov. 2023 In the world of college admissions, the AI revolution is here. Dr. Aviva Legatt, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 But the Sullivan speech institutionalized the revolution that Biden had set in motion. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 11 Nov. 2023 Back in the day, at the beginning of gang culture, some of it was actually tied up with tryin’ to take down the system, like revolution. Anna Deavere Smith, The Atlantic, 13 Nov. 2023 Sofia Boutella is readying for a revolution in the new full trailer for Zach Snyder’s Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire. Althea Legaspi, Rolling Stone, 13 Nov. 2023 In an industry not usually associated with technological innovation, Eco Material’s product represents nothing less than a step-change revolution. Erik Kobayashi-Solomon, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'revolution.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English revolucioun "rotation of the heavenly spheres around the earth, cyclical recurrence, completed motion around an axis, change of fortune," borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French revolucion "return of a celestial body to its point of departure, recurrence," borrowed from Medieval Latin revolūtiōn-, revolūtiō, going back to Late Latin, "a rolling back, return, recurrence," from Latin revolū-, variant stem of revolvere "to roll back to a starting point, (passive) travel in a circular course, return to a starting point" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at revolve

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of revolution was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near revolution

Cite this Entry

“Revolution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


rev·​o·​lu·​tion ˌrev-ə-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce revolution (audio)
: the action by a heavenly body of going round in an orbit
: the time taken to complete one orbit
: completion of a course (as of years) : cycle
: the action or motion of revolving : a turning round a center or axis : rotation
: a single complete turn (as of a wheel or a phonograph record)
: a sudden, extreme, or complete change
: a basic change in government
especially : the overthrow of one government and the substitution of another by the governed

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