In this paper we review the development of the concept of the stellar rotation parameter commonly known as v sin i. We emphasize that the interpretation of the parameter in terms of physical characteristics of the star always depends on comparison with a model that is intended to represent the physical properties of the star. To that end we will trace the development of such models along with the observational means of determining the parameter. Emphasis will be place on the traditional methods involving stellar spectroscopy, but some attention will be place on indirect methods involving direct measurement of the rotation period and recent interferometric determination of stellar oblatness. In addition we will comment on recent techniques involving the simultaneous measurement of many spectral lines and synthetic spectra to improve the accuracy of rotational half-widths.
The natural desire for simplicity of such models has often resulted in erroneous values for stellar parameters. This is particularly the case for the most rapidly rotating stars generally of early spectral type, but may also be present in some giants and supergiants where rapid rotation is difficult to detect. Finally, we will comment on the possibilities of improving the quality of both the measurement and interpretation of this important stellar rotation parameter.