noun, plural vor·tex·es, vor·ti·ces [vawr-tuh-seez] /ˈvɔr təˌsiz/.

a whirling mass of water, especially one in which a force of suction operates, as a whirlpool.
a whirling mass of air, especially one in the form of a visible column or spiral, as a tornado.See also polar vortex.
a whirling mass of fire, flame, etc.
a state of affairs likened to a whirlpool for violent activity, irresistible force, etc.
something regarded as drawing into its powerful current everything that surrounds it: the vortex of war.
(in Cartesian philosophy) a rapid rotatory movement of cosmic matter about a center, regarded as accounting for the origin or phenomena of bodies or systems of bodies in space.

Origin of vortex

1645–55; < Latin, variant of vertex vertex
Can be confusedvertex vortex
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vortex

Contemporary Examples of vortex

Historical Examples of vortex

  • We had reached the middle and were right in the vortex, when suddenly she reeled in her saddle.

    A Hero of Our Time

    M. Y. Lermontov

  • I was partly dragged, partly I went to a certain extent of my own will, into this vortex.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • Swallowed in the vortex of lower-class life of Paris—dead, probably.

    The White Lie

    William Le Queux

  • In the vortex of the eddy the delusion of the vast cone was more pronounced.

    Dwellers in the Hills

    Melville Davisson Post

  • We stand on the edge of the vortex, now will we plunge down.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

British Dictionary definitions for vortex


noun plural -texes or -tices (-tɪˌsiːz)

a whirling mass or rotary motion in a liquid, gas, flame, etc, such as the spiralling movement of water around a whirlpool
any activity, situation, or way of life regarded as irresistibly engulfing
Derived Formsvortical, adjectivevortically, adverb

Word Origin for vortex

C17: from Latin: a whirlpool; variant of vertex
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 vortex

1650s, "whirlpool, eddying mass," from Latin vortex, variant of vertex "an eddy of water, wind, or flame; whirlpool; whirlwind," from stem of vertere "to turn" (see versus). Plural form is vortices. Became prominent in 17c. theories of astrophysics (by Descartes, etc.). In reference to human affairs, it is attested from 1761. Vorticism as a movement in British arts and literature is attested from 1914, coined by Ezra Pound.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

vortex in Medicine



n. pl. vor•tex•es

A spiral motion of fluid within a limited area, especially a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it toward its center.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

vortex in Science



Plural vortexes vortices (vôrtĭ-sēz′)

A circular, spiral, or helical motion in a fluid (such as a gas) or the fluid in such a motion. A vortex often forms around areas of low pressure and attracts the fluid (and the objects moving within it) toward its center. Tornados are examples of vortexes; vortexes that form around flying objects are a source of turbulence and drag. See also eddy.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.