Definition of ornithopter in US English:



  • A machine designed to achieve flight by means of flapping wings.

    • ‘This led him to the consideration of many systems of flight, including helicopters and ornithopters (devices with flapping wings) and ultimately to his first theoretical concept in 1920 of the idea of freely rotating wings.’
    • ‘He developed prototypes for mass-produceable goods, and worked on the quixotic Letatlin, a design for an ornithopter.’
    • ‘He said that although the Canadian ornithopter was powered by an engine it was still very close to what Da Vinci had intended.’
    • ‘In collaboration with SRI International in Menlo Park, California, they are developing ornithopters - aircraft that get all of their thrust and most of their lift from flapping wings.’
    • ‘My friend Geoff Cohen turned me on to a book called ‘Cat's Paws and Catapaults,’ which examines the historical failure of mechanical designs based on nature - for example, the ornithopter.’


Early 20th century: coined in French as ornithoptère.