[en-juh n] /ˈɛn dʒən/

a machine for converting thermal energy into mechanical energy or power to produce force and motion.
a railroad locomotive.
a .
any mechanical contrivance.
a machine or instrument used in warfare, as a battering ram, catapult, or piece of artillery.
Obsolete. an instrument of torture, especially the rack.
any machine designed to convert energy, esp heat energy, into mechanical work: a steam engine, a petrol engine

(military) any of various pieces of equipment formerly used in warfare, such as a battering ram or gun
(obsolete) any instrument or device: engines of torture

c.1300, “mechanical device,” also “skill, craft,” from Old French engin “skill, cleverness,” also “trick, deceit, stratagem; war machine” (12c.), from Latin ingenium “inborn qualities, talent” (see ingenious). At first meaning a trick or device, or any machine (especially military); sense of “device that converts energy to mechanical power” is 18c., especially of steam engines.
A machine that turns energy into mechanical force or motion, especially one that gets its energy from a source of heat, such as the burning of a fuel. The efficiency of an engine is the ratio between the kinetic energy produced by the machine and the energy needed to produce it. See more at internal-combustion engine, steam engine., See also motor.

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”.
[Jargon File]


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