<jargon> 1. A piece of hardware that encapsulates some function but can't be used without some kind of front end. Today we have, especially, "print engine": the guts of a laser printer.

2. An analogous piece of software; notionally, one that does a lot of noisy crunching, such as a "database engine", or "search engine".

The hackish senses of "engine" are actually close to its original, pre-Industrial-Revolution sense of a skill, clever device, or instrument (the word is cognate to "ingenuity"). This sense had not been completely eclipsed by the modern connotation of power-transducing machinery in Charles Babbage's time, which explains why he named the stored-program computer that he designed in 1844 the "Analytical Engine".

(01 Feb 1996)

Engelmann's disease, Engelmann, Theodor, engender, ENGERIX-B < Prev | Next > engine, engineering, engine reamer

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1. (Pronounced, in this sense,) Natural capacity; ability; skill. "A man hath sapiences three, Memory, engine, and intellect also." (Chaucer)

2. Anything used to effect a purpose; any device or contrivance; an agent. "You see the ways the fisherman doth take To catch the fish; what engines doth he make?" (Bunyan) "Their promises, enticements, oaths, tokens, and all these engines of lust." (Shak)

3. Any instrument by which any effect is produced; especially, an instrument or machine of war or torture. "Terrible engines of death."

4. <machinery> A compound machine by which any physical power is applied to produce a given physical effect. Engine driver, one who manages an engine; specifically, the engineer of a locomotive. Engine lathe.

A method of ornamentation by means of a rose engine.

The term engine is more commonly applied to massive machines, or to those giving power, or which produce some difficult result. Engines, as motors, are distinguished according to the source of power, as steam engine, air engine, electromagnetic engine; or the purpose on account of which the power is applied, as fire engine, pumping engine, locomotive engine; or some peculiarity of construction or operation, as single-acting or double-acting engine, high-pressure or low-pressure engine, condensing engine, etc.

Origin: F. Engin skill, machine, engine, L. Ingenium natural capacity, invention; in in + the root of gignere to produce. See Genius, and cf. Ingenious, Gin a snare.

(01 Mar 1998)

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