Definition of nutation in English:



mass noun
  • 1A periodic variation in the inclination of the axis of a rotating object.

    1. 1.1Astronomy A periodic oscillation of the earth's axis which causes the precession of the poles to follow a wavy rather than a circular path.
      • ‘Bessel's work in determining the constants of precession, nutation and aberration won him further honours, such as a prize from the Berlin Academy in 1815.’
      • ‘There is a small periodic effect called nutation superimposed on precession caused by the motion of the perihelion of the Moon.’
      • ‘The principal causes of the slight irregular motion known as nutation are the Sun and Moon as they continually change location relative to one another.’
      • ‘In addition to the precession and nutation of the Earth's rotational axis, the Earth itself undergoes a wobble such that the crust wanders about the rotational axis with a combination of two periods and amplitudes.’
  • 2Botany
    The circular swaying movement of the tip of a growing shoot.


Early 17th century (denoting nodding of the head): from Latin nutatio(n-), from nutare ‘to nod’.