This paper reports results of DPIV measurements on a two-dimensional elliptic airfoil rotating about its own axis of symmetry in a fluid at rest and in a parallel freestream. In the former case, we examined three rotating speeds (Re c,Ω = 400, 1,000 and 2,000), and in the later case, four rotating speeds (Ro c,Ω = 2.4, 1.2, 0.6 and 0.4), together with two freestream velocities (Re c,u = 200 and 1,000) and two starting configurations of the airfoil (i.e., chord parallel to (α 0 = 0°) or normal (α 0 = 90°) to the freestream). Results show that a rotating airfoil in a stationary fluid produces two distinct types of vortex structures depending on the Reynolds number. The first type occurs at the lowest Reynolds number (Re c,Ω = 400), where vortices shed from the two edges or tips of the airfoil dissipated quickly, resulting in the airfoil rotating in a layer of diffused vorticity. The second type occurs at higher Reynolds numbers (i.e., Re c,Ω = 1,000 and 2,000), where the corresponding vortices rotated together with the airfoil. Due to the vortex suction effect, the torque characteristics are likely to be heavily damped for the first type because of the rapidly subsiding vortex shedding, and more oscillatory for the second type due to persistent presence of tip vortices. In a parallel freestream, increasing the tip-speed ratio (V/U) of the airfoil (i.e., decreasing the Rossby number, Ro c,Ω) transformed the flow topology from periodic vortex shedding at Ro c,Ω = 2.4 to the generation of a "hovering vortex" at Ro c,Ω = 0.6 and 0.4. The presence of the hovering vortex, which has not been reported in literature before, is likely to enhance the lift characteristics of the airfoil. Freestream Reynolds number is found to have minimal effect on the vortex formation and shedding process, although it enhances shear layer instability and produces more small-scale flow structures that affect the dynamics of the hovering vortex. Likewise, initial starting configuration of the airfoil, while affecting the flow transient during the initial phase of rotation, has insignificant effect on the overall flow topology. Unfortunately, technical constraint of our apparatus prevented us from carrying out complimentary force measurements; nevertheless, the results presented herein, which are more extensive than those computed by Lugt and Ohring (1977), will provide useful benchmark data, from which more advanced numerical calculations can be carried out to ascertain the corresponding force characteristics, particularly for those conditions with the presence of hovering vortex.