A spherical plain bearing is a bearing that permits angular rotation about a central point in two orthogonal directions (usually within a specified angular limit based on the bearing geometry). Typically these bearings support a rotating shaft in the [bore] of the inner ring that must move not only rotationally, but also at an angle.
Self-aligning spherical bearings were first used by James Nasmyth around 1840 to support line shaft bearings in mills and machine shops. For long shafts it was impossible to accurately align bearings, even if the shaft was perfectly straight. Nasmyth used brass bearing shells between hemispherical brass cups to align the bearings to self-align.