from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A machine that converts energy into mechanical force or motion.
  • noun Such a machine distinguished from an electric, spring-driven, or hydraulic motor by its use of a fuel.
  • noun A mechanical appliance, instrument, or tool.
  • noun An agent, instrument, or means of accomplishment.
  • noun A locomotive.
  • noun A fire engine.
  • noun Computers A search engine.
  • transitive verb To equip with an engine or engines.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To contrive.
  • To assault with engines of war.
  • To torture by means of an engine; rack.
  • To furnish with an engine or engines: as, the vessel was built on the Clyde and engined at Greenwich.
  • noun A locomotive which has two or more pairs of driving-wheels coupled together by side or parallel rods.
  • noun A form of engine in which the crank is driven by the pressure on two rectangular pistons, the second of which traverses in a suitable recess in the first This double motion enables the pistons to follow the angular displacement of the crank without the use of connecting-rods, and gives a square section to the case inclosing the two pistons.
  • noun Innate or natural ability; ingenuity; craft; skill.
  • noun An artful device or contrivance; a skilfully devised plan or method; a subtle artifice.
  • noun An instrumental agent or agency of any kind; anything used to effect a purpose; an instrumentality.
  • noun An apparatus for producing some mechanical effect; especially, a skilful mechanical contrivance: used in a very general way.
  • noun Specifically— A snare, gin, or trap.
  • noun A mechanism, instrument, weapon, or tool by which a violent effect is produced, as a musket, cannon, rack, catapult, battering-ram, etc.; specifically, in old use, a rack for torture; by extension, any tool or instrument: as, engines of war or of torture.
  • noun More particulary— A skilfully contrived mechanism or machine, the parts of which concur in producing an intended effect; a machine for applying any of the mechanical or physical powers to effect a particular purpose; especially, a self-contained, self-moving mechanism for the conversion of energy into useful work: as, a hydraulic engine for utilizing the pressure of water; a steam-, gas-, or air-engine, in which the elastic force of steam, gas, or air is utilized; a fire-engine; stationary or locomotive engines. In popular absolute use, the word generally has reference to a locomotive engine. See these words.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To assault with an engine.
  • transitive verb To equip with an engine; -- said especially of steam vessels.
  • transitive verb obsolete To rack; to torture.
  • noun obsolete Natural capacity; ability; skill.
  • noun Anything used to effect a purpose; any device or contrivance; a machine; an agent.
  • noun Any instrument by which any effect is produced; especially, an instrument or machine of war or torture.
  • noun (Mach.) A compound machine by which any physical power is applied to produce a given physical effect.
  • noun one who manages an engine; specifically, the engineer of a locomotive.
  • noun (Mach.) See under Lathe.
  • noun a machine tool.
  • noun (Fine Arts) a method of ornamentation by means of a rose engine.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun obsolete Cunning, trickery.
  • noun obsolete The result of cunning; a plot, a scheme.
  • noun engineering A device to convert energy into useful mechanical motion, especially heat energy
  • noun A powered locomotive used for pulling cars on railways.
  • noun A person or group of people which influence a larger group.
  • noun informal the brain or heart.
  • noun computing A software system, not a complete program, responsible for a technical task (as in layout engine, physics engine).
  • verb obsolete To assault with an engine.
  • verb dated To equip with an engine; said especially of steam vessels.
  • verb obsolete To rack; to torture.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an instrument or machine that is used in warfare, such as a battering ram, catapult, artillery piece, etc.
  • noun motor that converts thermal energy to mechanical work
  • noun a wheeled vehicle consisting of a self-propelled engine that is used to draw trains along railway tracks
  • noun something used to achieve a purpose


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English engin, skill, machine, from Old French, innate ability, from Latin ingenium; see genə- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English engin, from Old French engin ("skill", "cleverness", "war machine"), from Latin ingenium ("innate or natural quality, nature, genius, a genious, an invention, in Late Latin a war-engine, battering-ram"), from ingenitum, past participle of ingignere ("to instil by birth, implant, produce in"); see ingenious. Engine originally meant 'ingenuity, cunning' which eventually developed into meaning 'the product of ingenuity, a plot or snare' and 'tool, weapon'.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word engine.


  • An engine working on this principle has therefore been called a _high-pressure engine_.

    The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 20, No. 575, November 10, 1832 Various

  • One of the most important changes in our engine revision strategy is moving to the Cloudmark antispam engine*, which provides 99%+ detection rate and less than 1 in 250,000 false positives (West Coast Labs).

    TechNet Blogs 2009

  • Miraculously, the TAG engine kept running as he accelerated on to the finish straight to win the championship, the first time a driver had done so in successive years since Jack Brabham in 1959/60.

    Chequered Conflict Maurice Hamilton 2008

  • The concept of a bike that doesn't sound like a large clanking train engine is a new concept.

    October 2nd, 2004 2004

  • And feeding fuel to the engine is a 39mm Kehin FCR-MX carb with TPS (throttle positioning sensor).

    Quad 2009 ATV Buyers Guide 2009

  • Feeding fuel to the engine is an effective EFI system that helps provide instant cold starting.

    Quad 2009 ATV Buyers Guide 2009

  • From watchtowers, the British army surveys what they call the engine room of iron Republican terrorism.

    CNN Transcript Jun 24, 2001 2001

  • Key issues: Berg wants to cut taxes and regulation to help drive small business -- what he calls the engine of economic growth.

    Yahoo! News: Business - Opinion 2010

  • Instead, the focus needs to be on the fundamental security of "what I call the engine for the modern economy when it comes to cyber infrastructure."

    FCW News 2009

  • A vibrant, free economy energized by what I call the engine of "New Enlightened Capitalism"

    The BEING HAD Times 2008


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.