Spin or Rotate?

05 May 2023

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between "spin" and "rotate."


Dear teacher,

Ask a Teacher: Spin or Rotate
Ask a Teacher: Spin or Rotate

My name is Alex! I'm from Russia! Your content is a part of the learning English process for me, so I'd love to ask you a question about a couple English words that make me confused.

What is the exact difference between "spin" and "rotate"?

Thank you for your time,



This is an interesting question, Alex. "Spin" and "rotate" as verbs both involve circular movement. They are synonyms, but there may be situations when one sounds better than the other.

Let's start with "rotate."

"Rotate" is a verb that means to turn in a circular motion around a center point.

The verb can take a direct object or not.

The earth rotates around the sun. (no direct object)

I rotated the globe on the desk to find Helsinki, Finland. (direct object)

When we think of "rotate," we might consider the action of "rotating" to be slower than "spinning."

Rotate also has another meaning. "Rotate" can mean to take turns or to pass or change something in a series.

We should rotate our car's tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles.

Now let's look at "spin."

The verb "spin" also means to turn in a circular motion on a center point, much like "rotate." But we typically think of "spin" as being faster than "rotate."

The dancer spins fast on one foot.

"Spin" also has two other specific meanings as verbs. The first one means to make fiber into thread or yarn.

She spins wool from sheep into yarn using a spinning wheel.

The second meaning is when insects like spiders make thread from their bodies to create webs.

In the book Charlotte's Web, Charlotte, the spider spins a web with the words "Some Pig" in it for her friend, Wilber.

"Spin" can also be a noun with several meanings. Those meanings connect to the verbal meanings above.

A "spin" is a fast turn.

It can also mean a quick or fun ride in a vehicle.

Let's take the car out for a quick spin!

"Spin" can also mean mental confusion or physical dizziness. There was a popular song in the 1980s about this kind of spinning.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

synonyms n. a word that is similar in meaning to another word

globen. model of the earth

tire – n. a rubber ring that usually contains air and that fits around the wheel of a car or bicycle

yarn n. thread used for knitting, weaving, or sewing

wool – n. the soft, thick hair of sheep and some other animals

web n. a net made from silk threads woven together by a spider