Tech & Science dictionary

spinning wheel of death

spin-ing weel uhv deth ]

What is the spinning wheel of death mean?

The spinning wheel of death is a melodramatic nickname given to the rotating wait cursor on Apple devices that resembles a rainbow-colored pinwheel.  

The term spinning wheel of death is frequently used in tech-help articles or tech-support message boards. When this wait cursor fails to go away after a short period of time, it usually indicates the device is frozen or is stuck trying to resolve an error, prompting device owners to search for a fix.

Example: I nearly cried when I couldn't get that spinning wheel of death to go away on my Mac.

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Related words

🖥️ Desktop Computer emoji, blue screen of death, ⌨️ Keyboard emoji

Where does spinning wheel of death come from?

The phrase spinning wheel of death is meant to describe the wait cursor on Apple devices, which resembles a colorful spinning pinwheel. This wait cursor has been used on Macs since at least the release of Mac OS (operating system) X in 2001.  

It is possible that the phrase spinning wheel of death is as old as the icon itself. The term has popped up in Apple help forums and other tech-help message boards since at least 2004, and it first received an entry in Urban Dictionary in 2007. Spinning wheel of death appears to be based on the older term blue screen of death that refers to the blue screen indicating a severe error on a device running Microsoft Windows. 

Other names for the spinning wheel of death include spinning beachball of death, spinning pinwheel of death, and spinning pizza of death

Examples of spinning wheel of death

2020 is having your MacBook freeze where even the spinning wheel of death is frozen. Multiple times a day. Multiple times a week.
@lisa_chung, September 26, 2020
While the Internet itself won't be slowing down, expect to see the dreaded "spinning wheel of death" loading symbol featured prominently on some of your favorite websites, including Netflix, Foursquare, Etsy and more.
Alyssa Newcomb, ABC News, September 10, 2014

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Who uses spinning wheel of death?

The appearance of the spinning wheel of death causes pain and misery to a large number of users of Apple products.

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Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of spinning wheel of death like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of spinning wheel of death that will help our users expand their word mastery.