Turbines have been around for a long time—windmills and water wheels are early examples. The name comes from the Latin turbo, meaning vortex, and thus the defining property of a turbine is that a fluid or gas turns the blades of a rotor, which is attached to a shaft that can perform useful work.
The main thing now was to find the steering wheel. At first, Billy windmilled his arms, hoping to find it by luck.
1999, Jon Sharpe, Texas Hellion
True to her word, her hips windmilled in a frenzy.
2005, Gideon Defoe, The Pirates!: in an adventure with Ahab, page 140
As the Pirate Captain strained at the ham, the whale began to spasm and buck about in the water. Its tail thrashed wildly up and down. Its flippers windmilled in the air uselessly.
(intransitive) Of a rotating part of a machine, to (become disengaged and) rotate freely.
The axle broke and the wheel windmilled in place briefly before careening through the wall.
2000, Walter J. Boyne, Philip Handleman, Brassey's Air Combat Reader, page 18
When he went to switch on his rotary engine again, the Le Rhone refused to pick up. Nothing happened! The propeller simply windmilled in the slip stream. Garros knew immediately what was wrong and cursed himself for his imbecility.
2004, Deborah Bedford, If I Had You
The propeller windmilled in front of them. Creede tried to start the engine. It growled like something angry, died away. "We're ... gonna have to ... ride this thing ... to the ground."
2006, James R. Hansen, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, page 134
[…] the propeller blade on number-four engine windmilled in the air stream. "I wasn't too concerned about it, really," recalls Butchart. "B-29 engines are not all that dependable."