ro·​ta·​ry | \ ˈrō-tə-rē \

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

The combined effect of two touch screens, a bunch of buttons, and a rotary knob is clunky, and the whole mess feels out of place in what is otherwise a very technology-forward vehicle. Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, "Variable-compression engine meets crossover: Infiniti QX50 review," 8 Nov. 2018 The Poseidon can track ships and submarines across vast areas of ocean, deploying missiles, depth charges and torpedoes from a rotary launcher to sink them if necessary. Rob Taylor, WSJ, "New Zealand Buys Boeing Surveillance Jets to Counter Chinese Buildup," 9 July 2018 The Warthog continues to be an effective part of the battle against militants in the Middle East, in large part due to its ability to loiter for long periods of time and strafe with its GAU-8 Avenger 30mm rotary cannon. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "The A-10 vs. F-35 Flyoff Could Start This Spring," 2 Mar. 2018 Drivers can also opt in for a harder workout via a rotary dial that controls the pedal resistance. Dom Tripolone, Fox News, "Bike pedal-operated Audi burns calories as you drive," 27 Sep. 2018 One of my favorites from here is a '70s red-and-black Unitel Indetel rotary desk phone, which has two lines. Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Antique Stores and Flea Markets, According to the Pros," 21 Sep. 2018 Use a rotary punch and metal letter stamps to monogram them for a personalized touch. 15. Lauren Smith, House Beautiful, "15 Homemade Mother's Day Gifts That Don't Suck," 11 May 2018 Parade participants included Parkville's mayor, Nan Johnston, in a blue convertible; a cannon hauled by a white GMC truck; the rotary club; candidates for local elections; Miss Teen Missouri Chloe Bartlett and, most popular with the kids, clowns. Cortlynn Stark, Hana Muslic, Katie Bernard And Edward Mckinley, kansascity, "From Prairie Village to Parkville, KC area celebrates the Fourth," 4 July 2018 The landline telephone — curly corded, cord-free, rotary or with chunky plastic buttons — used to be a fixture of American homes. Tracey Lien,, "More than half of U.S. households have ditched landline phones," 7 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 With roundabouts, drivers approaching to enter the flow of traffic yield to cars already in the roundabout, but rotaries usually have two to three lanes with outside lane that allows cars to merge right away. Monroe Trombly,, "Northside, are you ready for a roundabout?," 12 Sep. 2017 Then firefighters used a rotary saw to cut just above the kitten’s whereabouts, and carefully knocked away loose bricks to free it. Brian Whitehead, Orange County Register, "Watch firefighters rescue kitten trapped in wall in Santa Ana," 30 May 2017 Jaguza Children Ministries returns to Medina Sunrise Rotary: Jaguza means Rejoice, Allan Kizito, Executive Director of Jaguza Children Ministries told Sunrise rotary. 'sam' Boyer/special To,, "Welcoming butterflies and other pollinators to the farm: Whit & Whimsey," 23 June 2017

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

17 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 \

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).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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