What is the difference between rotation and revolution?

I don't find any difference between the two words from the meanings I read about them. Both words have the same meaning: moving in a circle around an axis.

But just because the dictionary definitions are the same doesn't mean they are exact synonyms. Is there a more precise description to show a difference? Or are they really exact synonyms?

revolve verb
[no object] move in a circle on a central axis:
   overhead, the fan revolved slowly

rotate verb
1 move or cause to move in a circle round an axis or centre:
[no object]:
   the wheel continued to rotate

[Both ODO]

  • 1
    Why is this tagged BE?
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 13:27
  • It's okay for this to be tagged with whichever dialect the OP chooses, but why is this three questions in one? Please start by checking a dictionary of your choice and looking up rpm on Wikipedia. If something is still unclear after that, edit your question to include your research.#
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 13:30
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    As @RegDwighт said: "Please start by checking a dictionary of your choice". As the Help says: "If your question is simple and can probably be easily answered by looking it up, ... Try a dictionary ... if your question isn't adequately answered by these resources, feel free to ask here on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!"" Please explain why the dictionary definitions do not answer your question for you. Don't expect us to do your research.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 15:36
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    As to the answer, consider that while you may say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world. But when you talk about rotation, don't you know that you can count me out. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 15:55
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    revolution is when an object moves around something rotation is when an object moves around its own axis. think of a yoyo, when u do around the world trick u are doing a revolution around your body, when you are spinning the yoyo it is rotating. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


In mathematics, rotation is any angular movement or translation - so a sphere might be rotated on its axis, or around another object or point in space.

In astronomy, a distinction is made between an object's turning around its own axis (rotation) vs. its movement around another body (revolution).

Apart from these fields, both words are pretty much synonymous; except that there are some common uses that are not generally used interchangeably, e.g.:

"He rotated the map to see it the right way up"

"The engine does 10,000 revolutions per second"

Another sense is when the location of three or more objects are exchanged in a more-or-less circular fashion, e.g. "rotate the tyres on your car"

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    @Kris You can; that's what bounties are for. (But I've helped too. This exactly answers the [revised] question.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 8:59

Rotation: is some act of rotating along axis. Its a single complete turn along axial or orbit. here object have same distance from its center at any location. Revolve: is a motion or movement in orbit or circular path. here distance may be different on different point of time and/or location as object does not move along axis.

Reference: Wordweb Dictionary


When people say "rotate," they usually mean turning around in circles, like the wheels of the car would. On the other hand, when people say "revolve," they usually mean that an object moves around another. For example, Earth revolves around the Sun, since Earth is moving around the Sun.

  • -1 So when a disc rotates, why is it's speed measured in revolutions per minute?
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 23:38

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