Origin: L. Vortex, vertex, -icis, fr. Vortere, vertere, to turn. See Vertex.

1. A mass of fluid, especially of a liquid, having a whirling or circular motion tending to form a cavity or vacuum in the center of the circle, and to draw in towards the center bodies subject to its action; the form assumed by a fluid in such motion; a whirlpool; an eddy.

2. A supposed collection of particles of very subtile matter, endowed with a rapid rotary motion around an axis which was also the axis of a sun or a planet. Descartes attempted to account for the formation of the universe, and the movements of the bodies composing it, by a theory of vortices.

3. <zoology> Any one of numerous species of small Turbellaria belonging to Vortex and allied genera.

<chemistry> Vortex atom, a hypothetical ring-shaped mass of elementary matter in continuous vortical motion. It is conveniently regarded in certain mathematical speculations as the typical form and structure of the chemical atom. Vortex wheel, a kind of turbine.

(01 Mar 1998)