1. a whirling mass of water, esp. one in which a force of suction operates, as a whirlpool.
2. a whirling mass of air, esp. one in the form of a visible column or spiral, as a tornado.
3. a whirling mass of fire, flame, etc.
4. a state of affairs likened to a whirlpool for violent activity, irresistible force, etc.
5. something regarded as drawing into its powerful current everything that surrounds it: the vortex of war.
6. (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: 1645-55; < L, var. of vertex vertex]
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
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