# Coordinate axis - Why the name "axis"?

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?

• I'm quite sure that Descartes does not call "axis" the (coordinate) axis... simply because he did not use them. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 13:13
• Accoding to Tripod : "Axis occurs in English in the phrase "the Axis or Altitude of the Cone" in 1571 in A Geometricall Practise named Pantometria by Thomas Digges (1546?-1595). Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 13:17
• positions on the x axis are measured relative the the y axis (and vice-versa),, and they are symmetrical - rotation. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 21:05
• Latin axis, English axle, German Achse are Indo-European cognates, and all have the same basic meaning, “point of rotation”.
– fdb
Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 13:47