from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The act or an instance of nodding the head.
  • n. A wobble in a spinning gyroscope or other rotating body.
  • n. Astronomy A small periodic motion of the celestial pole of the earth with respect to the pole of the ecliptic.
  • n. Botany A slight curving or circular movement in a stem, as of a twining plant, caused by irregular growth rates of different parts.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a bobbing motion that accompanies the precession of a spinning rigid body
  • n. a nodding motion (of the head etc.)
  • n. any of several irregularities in the precession of the equinoxes caused by varying torque applied to the Earth by the Sun and the Moon
  • n. the circular motion of the tip of a growing shoot

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act of nodding.
  • n. A very small libratory motion of the earth's axis, by which its inclination to the plane of the ecliptic is constantly varying by a small amount.
  • n.
  • n. The motion of a flower in following the apparent movement of the sun, from the east in the morning to the west in the evening.
  • n. Circumnutation.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A nodding.
  • n. In pathology, a constant nodding or involuntary shaking of the head.
  • n. In astronomy, a small subordinate gyratory movement of the earth's axis, in virtue of which, if it subsisted alone, the pole would describe among the stars, in a period of about nineteen years, a minute ellipse, having its longer axis directed toward the pole of the ecliptic, and the shorter, of course, at right angles to it.
  • n. In botany, same as circumnutation.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. uncontrolled nodding


Latin nūtātiō, nūtātiōn-, from nūtātus, past participle of nūtāre, frequentative of -nuere, to nod.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1610s. Derived from Latin nutatio, from nūtō ("I nod"). (Wiktionary)


  • If, however, the spheres were somewhat flattened at the poles, and the axes inclined to each other, then the pull of one mass on the other would cause the polar axes to keep up a constant movement which is called nutation, or nodding.

    Outlines of the Earth's History A Popular Study in Physiography

  • This phenomenon, known as "nutation," was discovered by the beautiful telescopic researches of Bradley, in 1747.

    The Story of the Heavens

  • In addition to this steady decrease, there are also much smaller short term (18.6 years) variations, that is also affected by Sun's gravitation in its depleting angle relative to Earth's, known as nutation.

    Obama near climate change accord with China, others

  • Note that the observed nutation a lunar effect is much larger than the polar motion from the earthquake, so a question he would have to answer is why there is no apparent cycle in temperature from the former.

    Rabett Run

  • Amusingly the effect isn't the impressive-sounding nutation at all as a matter of definition, so no amount of calculation saves him from this boo-boo, but rather just plain polar motion.

    Rabett Run

  • And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind?

    Warning Against Searching for Monsters to Destroy

  • The phenomenon, however, subsequently provided important evidence for Newton's theory of gravity when d'Alembert in 1749 carried out a successful derivation based on rigid body motion and a correct value of the Moon's force derived from the then recently discovered phenomenon of the nutation of the Earth.

    Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

  • “I believe that if we introduce a more tightly focused nutation cycle in our deflector shields, and channel power to the shield generators directly from the warp engines, we can produce sufficient energy for the shields to protect against contamination of the dilithium crystals.”

    Creative Couplings

  • Each shot is actually millions of separate pulses, each at a slightly different nutation.

    A Time to Kill

  • Synchronize shield emitter nutation to the warp field coil output frequency.

    The Starfleet Survival Guide


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Hunting rhymes for "nutation" I looked into the legitimacy of "fruitation" and was disappointed to find that what little attention it draws is scorn as an unsophisticated stand-in for "fruition". This is too bad. I like the word and think that it nicely evokes an image of a tree laden with ripened fruit.

    We have a mulberry tree that, at midsummer when its branches droop with the weight of berries, is visited by crowds of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, etc., and cats in pursuit of the wild creatures. Even on windless days the tree pulsates as though palsied. Thus,

    The mulberry tree in fruitation
    Is swayed by a great disputation
    As critters at odds
    Cause tremors and nods
    And days of a steady nutation.

    I think fruitation works just fine here. For that matter nutation could just as well be applied in season to oaks or walnuts to describe both their abundance and their behavior:
    A language improves by mutation
    Producing delights like fruitation,
    Like saplings new-born
    From acorns wind-torn
    From oak trees that bend with nutation.

    August 8, 2016

  • So, nothing to do with sternutation, which involves an explosive perturbation of the nasal axis.

    March 14, 2008

  • I came across this word while reading and thought it must be a typo. But no.

    "...he also possessed uncommon mathematical powers and had read papers on nutation to the Royal Society..."
    --O'Brian, The Wine-Dark Sea, 136

    A Sea of Words defines this term as "A slight oscillation of the earth's axis."

    March 14, 2008