Whirlwind, cyclone, typhoon, hurricane, tornado, waterspout, twister share the basic notion of a rotary motion of the wind.
Whirlwind is applied to a small windstorm which begins with an inward and upward spiral motion of the lower air and is followed by an outward and upward spiral motion until, usually, there is a progressive motion at all levels.
Cyclone , in technical use, is applicable to a system of winds that rotate, counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, about a center of low atmospheric pressure; such a system of winds originating in the tropics (a tropical cyclone ) may rotate at the rate of 75 miles per hour or more, sometimes exceeding 200 miles per hour.
Typhoon is used of a severe tropical cyclone in the region of the western Pacific ocean. A tropical cyclone in the tropical north Atlantic and tropical western Pacific, with winds rarely exceeding 150 miles an hour, occasionally moving into temperate latitudes, is called a hurricane .
In popular use, especially in the midwestern U. S., cyclone may take the place of tornado , the usual technical term, for an extremely violent whirling wind which is accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud and which moves with great speed in a narrow path over a stretch of territory, often causing great destruction.
A waterspout is a tornado that occurs over water.
Twister is a familiar term often applied to a whirlwind, tornado, or waterspout.