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Pivot vs. Swivel — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Updated on February 23, 2024
A pivot refers to the action allowing rotation around single axis, often implying turning movement in place, while swivel encompasses broader range of motion, allowing objects to rotate horizontally or vertically around a point, offering more flexibility.
Pivot vs. Swivel — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Pivot and Swivel


Key Differences

Pivot and swivel are both terms associated with movement mechanisms, but they have distinct applications and connotations. Pivoting usually involves turning or rotating around a single, fixed point or axis. This action is common in various contexts, from sports, where an athlete might pivot on one foot, to mechanical engineering, where parts pivot around a hinge or axis. The pivot movement is integral to devices and machinery where controlled, rotational movement is necessary, often restricted to a single plane or axis to maintain stability or achieve a specific motion.
Swivel, implies a more versatile range of motion. Swivel mechanisms allow an object to rotate freely, typically 360 degrees, around a single point. This can include horizontal rotation (like a swivel chair or a rotating platform) or vertical movement, depending on the design of the swivel joint. Swivel mechanisms are essential in furniture, machinery, and equipment where a full, unrestricted range of motion is desired, providing the ability to face any direction from a fixed point.
Both pivot and swivel mechanisms are crucial for allowing rotational movement, the key difference lies in the range and freedom of movement each provides. Pivoting is more about rotation with a fixed center point, often limited to back-and-forth movements on one plane. Swiveling offers a greater degree of flexibility, allowing for complete, often unrestricted, circular motion around a point. The choice between a pivot and a swivel mechanism depends on the specific needs of the application, whether it requires precise, limited movement or flexible, omnidirectional orientation.
A door hinge allows a door to pivot open or closed, moving in a restricted arc. Conversely, a swivel chair enables users to rotate freely, providing a 360-degree range of motion. These examples highlight the functional differences between pivoting and swiveling, underscoring the importance of selecting the appropriate mechanism based on the desired movement and application.

Comparison Chart


Rotation around a single axis or point
Free rotation around a point, often 360 degrees


Limited, often to a single plane
Unrestricted, multiple planes possible


Sports, mechanical hinges, engineering
Swivel chairs, rotating platforms, machinery


Controlled, precise movement
Flexible, omnidirectional movement


Fixed center point or axis
Allows rotation in one or more directions

Compare with Definitions


Essential in precise, controlled movements.
The robot's arm pivots at the elbow for accurate positioning.


Provides flexibility in orientation.
The camera on a swivel base can capture panoramic views.


Common in sports for changing direction.
In basketball, pivoting on one foot allows a player to change direction without traveling.


Essential for equipment requiring full rotation.
The swivel caster wheels on the cart make maneuvering through aisles easy.


To turn on a pivot.


Used in furniture for convenience.
The bar stool's swivel seat makes getting on and off easier in tight spaces.


The act of turning on a pivot.


To rotate freely around a point, usually 360 degrees.
The swivel chair allows the user to turn in any direction.


Axis consisting of a short shaft that supports something that turns


Mechanism for unrestricted rotational movement.
The TV mount swivels for optimal viewing angles.


Turn on a pivot


A swivel is a connection that allows the connected object, such as a gun, chair, swivel caster, or an anchor rode to rotate horizontally or vertically.


To rotate or turn around a fixed point or axis.
The dancer executed a perfect pivot on her toe.


Turn around a point or axis or on a swivel
He swivelled in the chair
She swivelled her eyes round


Mechanism allowing limited rotational movement.
The screen door can pivot open up to 90 degrees.


To turn or rotate on a swivel or an axis.


Used in machinery for stability.
The crane's base pivots to position the arm while keeping the structure stable.


To secure, fit, or support with a swivel.


Turn on or as if on a pivot
He swung round, pivoting on his heel


To turn on a swivel or an axis.


A person or thing on which something depends; the central or crucial factor
“The pivot of the whole affair was the stupidity of some admiral” (Joseph Conrad).


The act of swivelling.


The stationary foot around which the ball handler is allowed to pivot without dribbling.


(intransitive) To swing or turn, as on a pin or pivot.


To mount on, attach by, or provide with a pivot or pivots.


A piece, as a ring or hook, attached to another piece by a pin, in such a manner as to permit rotation about the pin as an axis.


To cause to rotate, revolve, or turn
Pivoted the telescope toward the island.


A small piece of ordnance, turning on a point or swivel; - called also swivel gun.


(computing) A pivot table.


To swing or turn, as on a pin or pivot.


(mathematics) An element of a matrix that is used as a focus for row operations, such as dividing the row by the pivot, or adding multiples of the row to other rows making all other values in the pivot column 0.


(intransitive) To turn on an exact spot.


To shift a political candidate's messaging during a general election to reflect plans and values more moderate than those advocated during the primary.


The end of a shaft or arbor which rests and turns in a support; as, the pivot of an arbor in a watch.


The officer or soldier who simply turns in his place whike the company or line moves around him in wheeling; - called also pivot man.

Common Curiosities

What is the primary function of a pivot?

The primary function of a pivot is to allow rotation or turning movement around a single, fixed axis or point, often limited to a specific plane.

Where is pivoting commonly used?

Pivoting is commonly used in sports, mechanical hinges, and engineering applications where precise, limited rotational movement is needed.

Can a mechanism both pivot and swivel?

Yes, some mechanisms are designed to both pivot and swivel, offering a combination of controlled movement and flexible orientation.

Why are swivel chairs popular in offices?

Swivel chairs are popular in offices because they offer flexibility and convenience, allowing users to rotate freely and access different areas of their workspace without standing.

Are pivoting movements only horizontal?

While pivoting movements are often horizontal, they can also occur vertically or in a specific plane, depending on the mechanism's design.

How do maintenance requirements differ between pivot and swivel mechanisms?

Maintenance for pivot mechanisms often involves ensuring tightness and lubrication at the pivot point to prevent wear. Swivel mechanisms may require more frequent lubrication and checks to ensure smooth, unrestricted movement.

What distinguishes a pivot from a swivel in terms of movement?

A pivot is characterized by rotation around a fixed point with limited freedom, while a swivel offers a more unrestricted, omnidirectional rotation.

How does a swivel mechanism work?

A swivel mechanism works by allowing an object to rotate freely, typically 360 degrees, around a single point, providing flexibility in movement and orientation.

How does the range of motion differ between a pivot and a swivel?

The range of motion in a pivot is typically limited to a single plane, whereas a swivel provides a full 360-degree range, allowing movement in multiple planes.

What materials are used to make pivot and swivel mechanisms?

Pivot and swivel mechanisms are made from a variety of materials, including metal, plastic, and composite materials, chosen for their durability, strength, and suitability for the specific application.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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