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

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 There’s English and then there’s the language my daughters speak, which is as indecipherable to me as the sounds of a rotary motor. Chris Erskine,, "A toast to New Orleans, the place it all began for us," 6 July 2018 The only engine to truly break the mold—the only one to make it into production—was engineer Felix Wankel’s rotary wonder, a triangle inside an oval, spinning like a demon. Blake Z. Rong, Popular Mechanics, "​​The Evolution of the Combustion Engine​​," 5 June 2018 Paired with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission (with rotary shifter and paddle shifters), the Td6 offers strong performance and increased fuel efficiency over gas models. Emma Jayne Williams, star-telegram, "Land Rover’s 5th-generation Discovery excels either on or off the beaten track | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 26 May 2018 After plants have finished producing berries, use a string trimmer or rotary mower and cut plants to about 2 inches above the crown. Kym Pokorny,, "What you need to know to grow your own Oregon strawberries," 8 May 2018 According to museum president Paul Schneider, the Silsby engines used rotary gears instead of pistons, the common feature of the time. Mark Yost, WSJ, "A Museum to Spark New Interest," 11 July 2018 Winkleman then slowly rotates the guage's rotary handle to move its probe down to the edge of a tiny hole on the side of the gun's frame. Adam Fisher, WIRED, "A Landmark Legal Shift Opens Pandora’s Box for DIY Guns," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Due to Eno's efforts, things such as speed limits, right-of-way rules at intersections and rotaries, pavement markings, one way streets and turn signals have been codified to law. Courant Community, "Community News For The Valley Edition," 5 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

10 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for rotary

The first known use of rotary was in 1704

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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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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).


lying above or upon

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