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noun, plural vor·tex·es, vor·ti·ces [vawr-tuh-seez] /ˈvɔr təˌsiz/.
  1. a whirling mass of water, especially one in which a force of suction operates, as a whirlpool.
  2. a whirling mass of air, especially one in the form of a visible column or spiral, as a tornado.See also polar vortex.
  3. a whirling mass of fire, flame, etc.
  4. a state of affairs likened to a whirlpool for violent activity, irresistible force, etc.
  5. something regarded as drawing into its powerful current everything that surrounds it: the vortex of war.
  6. (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. 2018

Examples from the Web for vortices

Historical Examples of vortices

  • Fifty-eight of those atrocious Dilipic vortices had been driven to ground.

    The Galaxy Primes

    Edward Elmer Smith

  • "Phlogiston" and "vortices" had their day and are forgotten.


    William Graham Sumner

  • Vortices may be called an occult quality, because their existence was never proved.

  • The vortices, as Descartes imagined them, are not now believed in.

  • Possibly, gravity does part of the work, and the vortices of Descartes interfere with it.

British Dictionary definitions for vortices


noun plural -texes or -tices (-tɪˌsiːz)
  1. a whirling mass or rotary motion in a liquid, gas, flame, etc, such as the spiralling movement of water around a whirlpool
  2. 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 vortices



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

vortices in Medicine


n. pl. vor•tex•es
  1. 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.

vortices in Science


Plural vortexes vortices (vôrtĭ-sēz′)
  1. 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.