In "natural life" "axis" is often used in terms of an axis of rotation. But in the mathematical sense, it's more used like a ruler. One could say an axis in "natural life" sense has something to do with rotation around the axis and in math, it's more like a translation (physical sense) in direction of the axis (position on the axis).
In German it's even more difficult to distinguigh this meanings as "axle" and "axis" are both "Achse" in german.
I suspect that René Descartes deliberately chose the name "axis" for coordinate axis?