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[ak-sis] /ˈæk sɪs/
noun, plural axes
[ak-seez] /ˈæk siz/ (Show IPA)
the line about which a rotating body, such as the earth, turns.
  1. a central line that bisects a two-dimensional body or figure.
  2. a line about which a three-dimensional body or figure is symmetrical.
  1. a central or principal structure, about which something turns or is arranged:
    the skeletal axis.
  2. the second cervical vertebra.
Botany. the longitudinal support on which organs or parts are arranged; the stem and root; the central line of any body.
Analytic Geometry. any line used as a fixed reference in conjunction with one or more other references for determining the position of a point or of a series of points forming a curve or a surface.
Compare x-axis, y-axis.
Crystallography. crystallographic axis.
Aeronautics. any one of three lines defining the attitude of an airplane, one being generally determined by the direction of forward motion and the other two at right angles to it and to each other.
Fine Arts. an imaginary line, in a given formal structure, about which a form, area, or plane is organized.
an alliance of two or more nations to coordinate their foreign and military policies, and to draw in with them a group of dependent or supporting powers.
the Axis, (in World War II) Germany, Italy, and Japan, often with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.
a principal line of development, movement, direction, etc.
Origin of axis1
First recorded in 1540-50, axis is from the Latin word axis an axletree, axle, axis. See axi-
Related forms
[ak-sist] /ˈæk sɪst/ (Show IPA),
unaxised, adjective


[ak-sis] /ˈæk sɪs/
noun, plural axises.
First recorded in 1595-1605, axis is from the Latin word axis a wild animal of India (Pliny) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for axis
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At last I heard him revolving on his axis down the corkscrew staircase.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede George MacDonald
  • And (b) what proof is there that the axis of the world revolves at all?

    Timaeus Plato
  • For motion is either change of substance, or motion on an axis, or from one place to another.

    Parmenides Plato
  • The motion of the earth round its axis, and round the sun, makes the day, and the year.

    Nature Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not transparent but opake.

    Nature Ralph Waldo Emerson
British Dictionary definitions for axis


noun (pl) axes (ˈæksiːz)
a real or imaginary line about which a body, such as an aircraft, can rotate or about which an object, form, composition, or geometrical construction is symmetrical
one of two or three reference lines used in coordinate geometry to locate a point in a plane or in space
(anatomy) the second cervical vertebra Compare atlas (sense 3)
(botany) the main central part of a plant, typically consisting of the stem and root, from which secondary branches and other parts develop
an alliance between a number of states to coordinate their foreign policy
(optics) Also called principal axis. the line of symmetry of an optical system, such as the line passing through the centre of a lens
(geology) an imaginary line along the crest of an anticline or the trough of a syncline
(crystallog) one of three lines passing through the centre of a crystal and used to characterize its symmetry
Word Origin
C14: from Latin: axletree, earth's axis; related to Greek axōn axis


noun (pl) axises
any of several S Asian deer of the genus Axis, esp A. axis. They typically have a reddish-brown white-spotted coat and slender antlers
Word Origin
C18: from Latin: Indian wild animal, of uncertain identity


  1. the Axis, the alliance of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan, established in 1936 and lasting until their defeat in World War II
  2. (as modifier): the Axis powers
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for axis

1540s, "imaginary straight line around which a body (such as the Earth) rotates," from Latin axis "axle, pivot, axis of the earth or sky," from PIE *aks- "axis" (cf. Old English eax, Old High German ahsa "axle;" Greek axon "axis, axle, wagon;" Sanskrit aksah "an axle, axis, beam of a balance;" Lithuanian aszis "axle"). Figurative sense in world history of "alliance between Germany and Italy" (later extended unetymologically to include Japan) is from 1936. Original reference was to a "Rome-Berlin axis" in central Europe. The word later was used in reference to a London-Washington axis (World War II) and a Moscow-Peking axis (early Cold War).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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axis in Medicine

axis ax·is (āk'sĭs)
n. pl. ax·es (āk'sēz')

  1. A real or imaginary straight line about which a body or geometric object rotates or may be conceived to rotate.

  2. A center line to which parts of a structure or body may be referred.

  3. The second cervical vertebra. Also called epistropheus, vertebra dentata.

  4. An artery that divides into many branches at its origin.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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axis in Science
Plural axes (āk'sēz')
  1. An imaginary line around which an object rotates. In a rotating sphere, such as the Earth and other planets, the two ends of the axis are called poles. The 23.45° tilt of the Earth's axis with respect to the plane of its orbit around the Sun causes the Northern and Southern Hemispheres to point toward and away from the Sun at different times of the year, creating seasonal patterns of weather and climate. Other planets in the solar system have widely varying tilts to their axes, ranging from near 0° for Mercury to 177° for Venus.

  2. Mathematics

    1. A line, ray, or line segment with respect to which a figure or object is symmetrical.

    2. A reference line from which distances or angles are measured in a coordinate system, such as the x-axis and y-axis in the Cartesian coordinate system.

  3. Anatomy The second cervical vertebra, which serves as a pivot for the head.

  4. Botany The main stem or central part of a plant or plant part, about which other plant parts, such as branches or leaflets, are arranged.

axial adjective
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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axis in Culture

axis definition

An imaginary straight line passing through the North Pole, the center of the Earth, and the South Pole. The Earth rotates around this axis.

axis definition

In geometry, a straight line about which an object may rotate or that divides an object into symmetrical halves.

Note: The axis of the Earth is an imaginary line drawn through the North Pole and the South Pole.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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