a heavier-than-air craft designed to be propelled through the air by flapping wings.

< French ornithoptère (1908), equivalent to ornitho- ornitho- + -ptère < Greek -pteros -pterous

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To ornithopter
World English Dictionary
ornithopter (ˈɔːnɪˌθɒptə)
Also called: orthopter a heavier-than-air craft sustained in and propelled through the air by flapping wings

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

1908, from Fr. ornithoptère, a machine designed to fly be mechanical flapping of wings, from ornitho- (q.v.) + Gk. pteron "wing" (see petition). A mode of flight considered promising at least since Leonardo's day.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Encyclopedia Britannica


machine designed to fly by the flapping of its wings in imitation of birds. The wooden bird said to have been made about 400 BC by Archytas of Tarentum is one of the earliest examples. The Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus involves man's use of wings in the manner of birds. Leonardo da Vinci made many drawings and models of such aircraft in the late 15th century. Although a few short flights have been recorded, ornithopters remain impractical.

Learn more about ornithopter with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Cite This Source
Example sentences
Unfortunately, there is one thing that ornithopter enthusiasts often overlook-namely, the effects of scale.
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature