In fluid dynamics, a vortex is a region in a fluid in which the flow is rotating around an axis line, which may be straight or curved. The plural of vortex is either vortices or vortexes. Vortices form in stirred fluids, and may be observed in phenomena such as smoke rings, whirlpools in the wake of boat, or the winds surrounding a tornado or dust devil.
Vortices are a major component of turbulent flow. The distribution of velocity, vorticity (the curl of the flow velocity), as well as the concept of circulation are used to characterize vortices. In most vortices, the fluid flow velocity is greatest next to its axis and decreases in inverse proportion to the distance from the axis.
In the absence of external forces, viscous friction within the fluid tends to organize the flow into a collection of irrotational vortices, possibly superimposed to larger-scale flows, including larger-scale vortices. Once formed, vortices can move, stretch, twist, and interact in complex ways. A moving vortex carries with it some angular and linear momentum, energy, and mass.