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[vawr-teks] /ˈvɔr tɛks/
noun, plural vortexes, vortices
[vawr-tuh-seez] /ˈvɔr təˌsiz/ (Show IPA)
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.
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 confused
vertex, vortex. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for vortex
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The sky and the lawn seemed to alter positions, to rotate madly as in a vortex.

    Made in Tanganyika Carl Richard Jacobi
  • In the vortex of the eddy the delusion of the vast cone was more pronounced.

    Dwellers in the Hills Melville Davisson Post
  • I do not think that any man with less experience than myself could sound the depths of that vortex and come up alive.

    The Chief Legatee Anna Katharine Green
  • In the vortex of his failure, all the means of supporting his family were swallowed up.

  • He was in the vortex of a vast whirlpool, not of water or of wind, but of life.

British Dictionary definitions for vortex


noun (pl) -texes, -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 Forms
vortical, adjective
vortically, adverb
Word Origin
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
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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
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vortex in Medicine

vortex vor·tex (vôr'těks')
n. pl. vor·tex·es or vor·ti·ces (-tĭ-sēz')
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.
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vortex in Science
Plural vortexes or vortices (vôr'tĭ-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 © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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