A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forward, backward, and laterally. These attributes allow helicopters to be used in congested or isolated areas where fixed-wing aircraft and many forms of VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft cannot perform.
The English word helicopter is adapted from the French word hélicoptère, coined by Gustave Ponton d’Amécourt in 1861, which originates from the Greek helix (ἕλιξ) “helix, spiral, whirl, convolution” and pteron (πτερόν) “wing”. English language nicknames for helicopter include “chopper”, “copter”, “helo”, “heli”, and “whirlybird”.
Helicopters were developed and built during the first half-century of flight, with the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 being the first operational helicopter in 1936.