turning or capable of turning around on an axis, as a wheel.
taking place around an axis, as motion.
having a part or parts that turn on an axis, as a machine.

noun, plural ro·ta·ries.

Origin of rotary

1725–35; < Medieval Latin rotārius (adj.), equivalent to Latin rot(a) wheel + -ārius -ary
Related formsun·ro·ta·ry, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rotary

Contemporary Examples of rotary

Historical Examples of rotary

  • On Model B a Holmes rotary 7-cylinder motor of 4x4-inch bore and stroke is used.

    Flying Machines

    W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell

  • Sometimes the pan is shaken so that the dirt receives a rotary motion.

  • He swung it rigidly with the rotary and menacing action of a slinger: the 14-lb.

    End of the Tether

    Joseph Conrad

  • The log-hauler would not deliver the goods to the rotary saw.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

  • I changed the movement from a reciprocating to a rotary motion.

    Peter Cooper

    Rossiter W. Raymond

British Dictionary definitions for rotary



of, relating to, or operating by rotation
turning or able to turn; revolving

noun plural -ries

a part of a machine that rotates about an axis
US and Canadian a roundabout (for traffic)

Word Origin for rotary

C18: from Medieval Latin rotārius, from Latin rota a wheel
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

Word Origin and History for rotary

1731, from Medieval Latin rotarius "pertaining to wheels," from Latin rota "a wheel, a potter's wheel; wheel for torture," from PIE root *roto- "to run, to turn, to roll" (cf. Sanskrit rathah "car, chariot;" Avestan ratho; Lithuanian ratas "wheel," ritu "I roll;" Old High German rad, German Rad, Dutch rad, Old Frisian reth, Old Saxon rath, Old Irish roth, Welsh rhod "carriage wheel"). The international service club (founded by Paul P. Harris in Chicago in 1905) so called from the practice of clubs entertaining in rotation. Hence Rotarian (1911).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper