ro·​ta·​ry | \ ˈrō-tə-rē How to pronounce rotary (audio) \

Definition of rotary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : turning on an axis like a wheel
b : taking place about an axis rotary motion
2 : having an important part that turns on an axis rotary cutter
3 : characterized by rotation
4 : of, relating to, or being a press in which paper is printed by rotation in contact with a curved printing surface attached to a cylinder


plural rotaries

Definition of rotary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a rotary machine
2 : a road junction formed around a central circle about which traffic moves in one direction only

called also circle, traffic circle

Examples of rotary in a Sentence


the rotary action of the wheel

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Mercury, lead and other toxic air pollutants would be released during a rotary kiln process to recover zinc and iron. USA TODAY, "Charlottesville remembered, drive-thru ban, ketchup karma: News from around our 50 states," 13 Aug. 2019 So the groom donned sunglasses and started to swing around in his wheelchair while holding his bride’s hand, pumping himself up and down like a jack-in-the-box and twirling his arms above his head like the rotary blades on a helicopter. Neal Hirschfeld, New York Times, "He Was Shot and Paralyzed 37 Years Ago. That’s Not How the Story Ends.," 2 Aug. 2019 Further Reading Your eyes are the key to distracted driving, not your brain The XT6 is the first Cadillac fitted with a rotary jog wheel to control the infotainment system. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "The 2020 Cadillac XT6: Better than an Escalade in every way," 29 July 2019 Now turn the rotary switch (dial) to Volts DC; because batteries supply direct current (DC), not alternating current (AC). Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How To Use a Digital Multimeter," 25 July 2019 One project suggests improvements to the existing rotary on Pearland Parkway and replacing it with a roundabout, which will allow commuters to travel around the outer edge without having to access the roundabout, according to Pearson. Tyler Johnson, Houston Chronicle, "Pearland bond projects in early stages," 14 June 2019 This being Massachusetts, of course there’s a rotary. Pamela Wright,, "Cool cruising along the Cape Cod Rail Trail," 16 July 2019 As wires increasingly go the way of rotary phones, nearly every industry is trying to push into underused spectrum space. Millicent Dent And Stephen Cunningham, Houston Chronicle, "Power and tech giants fight over airwaves space in the U.S.," 9 Aug. 2019 Upstairs, 12 lodge rooms still have creaky floorboards, shared bathrooms, and a library of classic sea tales, but now there’s also a rotary phone with a direct line to the bar down below. Jen Murphy, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Long Weekend on Whidbey Island, the Playground of the Pacific Northwest," 10 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The truck was last seen entering the rotary in the area of Broadway and Main Street in Everett., "Hit-and-run community alert for white pick up truck cancelled," 28 July 2019 The rollover location is about a half-mile north of the West Beach/Middle Beach rotary. Peter Marteka,, "Haddam community mourns 18-year-old killed in Hammonasset State Park crash," 25 June 2019 Only Mazda really went for it, using rotaries mostly famously in sports cars such as the RX-7 and grand tourers such as the Cosmo. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "The Rhombus Rotary Engine: Can a Quirky New Design Top the Famous Wankel?," 18 Jan. 2019 Instead, a version of the rotary will act as a range extender in one of two electric vehicles the brand will debut for 2020. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "Second Spin: The Mazda Rotary Engine Will Return," 2 Oct. 2018 Specifically, rumors swirled earlier this year that Mazda would move to combine the rotary with an electric powertrain, bringing the design back into production. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "Second Spin: The Mazda Rotary Engine Will Return," 2 Oct. 2018 The cordless handset sits atop its base like an old rotary—a nice design twist. Paul Schrodt, WSJ, "Why the Landline Phone Will Never Go Away," 5 July 2018 Carmakers also liked the rotary for its smoothness. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "Why Car Lovers Are So Mad for Mazda’s Rotary Engine Revival," 21 May 2018 Specifically, ten Brink said the rotary could become a range extender for an electric car in 2019, and for now that’s just a rumor. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "Why Car Lovers Are So Mad for Mazda’s Rotary Engine Revival," 21 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rotary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of rotary


1704, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1836, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rotary


Medieval Latin rotarius, from Latin rota wheel

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Statistics for rotary

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for rotary

The first known use of rotary was in 1704

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More Definitions for rotary



English Language Learners Definition of rotary

: turning around a central point like a wheel
: having a part that turns around a central point like a wheel


ro·​ta·​ry | \ ˈrō-tə-rē How to pronounce rotary (audio) \

Kids Definition of rotary

1 : turning on an axis like a wheel a rotary blade
2 : having a rotating part

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More from Merriam-Webster on rotary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rotary

Spanish Central: Translation of rotary

Nglish: Translation of rotary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rotary for Arabic Speakers

Comments on rotary

What made you want to look up rotary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


readily or continually undergoing change

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