1838, "waterwheel driven by the impact or reaction of a flowing stream of water," from French turbine (19c.), from Latin turbinem (nominative turbo) "spinning top, eddy, whirlwind, that which whirls," related to turba "turmoil, crowd" (see turbid). Originally applied to a wheel spinning on a vertical axis driven by falling water, later of mechanisms driven by the flow of air. Turbo in reference to gas turbine engines is attested from 1904.
updated on June 06, 2019