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

Dremel, the do-anything corded rotary tool, is one of our favorite tools out there. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Need a Dremel? Today's Your Lucky Day," 21 May 2019 The first piece of gear McConnell grabbed was a rotary evaporator, a device sometimes found in chemistry classrooms. Andrew Daniels, Popular Mechanics, "This Mad Science Experiment Is the Key to the Perfect Mint Julep," 3 May 2019 Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) appointed six Democratic members of a new committee tasked with modernizing Congress, which remains a bastion of wood fireplaces, parliamentary procedure and the occasional rotary phone. ... Andrew Duehren, WSJ, "Lawmakers Vow to Modernize Congress, One Modem at a Time," 3 Feb. 2019 The material is made from 100 percent sustainable CmiA (Cotton made in Africa), printed in Accra using a traditional rotary machine, and features designs by local artists. Vogue, "Tamara Mellon’s Colorful Kitenge-Print Shoes Provide a Step Up for Women in Ghana," 7 Mar. 2019 To stem the influx of drugs, troopers work with federal law-enforcement agencies and other partners, such as tribal entities, mental-health professionals, schools and church groups, as well as newer partners such as rotary clubs. Rachel D'oro, The Seattle Times, "Report: Fentanyl deaths in Alaska quadrupled in 2017," 5 Sep. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

6 Jun 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

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