helicopter

Definitions

General English

Aviation

  • noun an aircraft with one or more rotors rotating around vertical axes which provide lift and control

Military

  • noun an aircraft without wings, which obtains its upward lift by means of horizontally rotating blades (known as rotors), which are fitted to the top of the airframe
  • abbreviationhel

Slang

  • noun a temporary visitor. In middle-class adult slang of the 1990s the word would be applied to a neighbour who drops in just to eat and then disappears or, as in the phrase ‘helicopter-parents’, by school staff referring to parents who stay only long enough for a brief consultation or complaint. In 2006 ‘helicopter parent’ was in vogue with the slightly different sense of one who hovers constantly, prompting offspring and scrutinising teachers.

Travel

  • noun an aircraft with a large propeller on top which allows it to lift straight off the ground

Origin & History of “helicopter”

The term helicopter was coined in the mid-19th century from Greek hélix ‘spiral’ (source of English helix (16th c.) and helical (17th c.)) and Greek ptéron ‘wing’ (source of English pterodactyl and related to feather). The French were first in the field with hélicoptère, and the earliest record of the word in English, in 1861, was the barely anglicized helicoptere, but by the late 1880s the modern form helicopter was being used. (these 19th-century helicopters were of course a far cry from the present-day rotor-blade-driven craft, which were introduced in the late 1930s; as their name suggests, they were lifted – or more usually not lifted – by rotating spiral-shaped aerofoils.).
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