Definition of nutation in US English:



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

    1. 1.1Astronomy A periodic oscillation of the earth's axis that causes the precession of the poles to follow a wavy rather than a circular path.
      • ‘There is a small periodic effect called nutation superimposed on precession caused by the motion of the perihelion of the Moon.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2Botany 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’.