mechanism

Use the word mechanism to describe a process that has been set up to accomplish a particular goal. If you’ve set up a method for dealing with your sister when she annoys you, then you have a mechanism in place for establishing peace with your sister.

The word mechanism came into the English language in the seventeenth century by way of the Latin word mechanismus, which traces back to the Greek word mekhane, meaning “device" or "means.” Mechanism still carries with it the meaning of “device” and can be used to describe a machine, but nowadays you are more likely to hear it used to describe a process for getting something done, such as "a mechanism for generating revenue" or "a crisis-resolution mechanism."

Primary Meanings of mechanism

1.
n
device consisting of a piece of machinery; has moving parts that perform some function
2.
n
the atomic process that occurs during a chemical reaction
3.
n
(philosophy) the philosophical theory that all phenomena can be explained in terms of physical or biological causes
Full Definitions of mechanism
1

n device consisting of a piece of machinery; has moving parts that perform some function

Types:
show 116 types...
hide 116 types...
action, action mechanism
the operating part that transmits power to a mechanism
actuator
a mechanism that puts something into automatic action
automaton, golem, robot
a mechanism that can move automatically
axis, axis of rotation
the center around which something rotates
carriage
a machine part that carries something else
cartridge ejector, ejector
a mechanism in a firearm that ejects the empty shell case after firing
cartridge extractor, cartridge remover, extractor
a mechanism in a firearm that pulls an empty shell case out of the chamber and passes it to the ejector
clockwork
any mechanism of geared wheels that is driven by a coiled spring; resembles the works of a mechanical clock
control, controller
a mechanism that controls the operation of a machine
cooling, cooling system
a mechanism for keeping something cool
delayed action
a mechanism that automatically delays the release of a camera shutter for a fixed period of time so that the photographer can appear in the picture
drive
a mechanism by which force or power is transmitted in a machine
drive line, drive line system
mechanism that transmits power from the engine to the driving wheels of a motor vehicle
fail-safe
a mechanism capable of returning to a safe state in case there is a failure or malfunction
film advance
a mechanism for advancing film in a camera or projector
gear, gear mechanism
a mechanism for transmitting motion for some specific purpose (as the steering gear of a vehicle)
homing device
the mechanism in a guided missile that guides it toward its objective
hydraulic system
a mechanism operated by the resistance offered or the pressure transmitted when a liquid is forced through a small opening or tube
ignition, ignition system
the mechanism that ignites the fuel in an internal-combustion engine
lock
a mechanism that detonates the charge of a gun
mechanical device
mechanism consisting of a device that works on mechanical principles
radiator
a mechanism consisting of a metal honeycomb through which hot fluids circulate; heat is transferred from the fluid through the honeycomb to the airstream that is created either by the motion of the vehicle or by a fan
rotating mechanism
a mechanism that rotates
steering linkage
mechanism consisting of a system of rods and levers connected to the front wheels of a motor vehicle; the steering gear pushes it left or right which swivels the front wheels, causing the vehicle to turn
steering mechanism, steering system
a mechanism by which something is steered (especially a motor vehicle)
tape drive, tape transport, transport
a mechanism that transports magnetic tape across the read/write heads of a tape playback/recorder
whirler
a revolving mechanism
workings, works
the internal mechanism of a device
air conditioner, air conditioning
a system that keeps air cool and dry
android, humanoid, mechanical man
an automaton that resembles a human being
blade, vane
flat surface that rotates and pushes against air or water
broadcaster, spreader
a mechanical device for scattering something (seed or fertilizer or sand etc.) in all directions
bumper
a mechanical device consisting of bars at either end of a vehicle to absorb shock and prevent serious damage
bumper guard
vertical bars attached to a bumper to prevent locking bumpers with another vehicle
cam
a rotating disk shaped to convert circular into linear motion
carburetor, carburettor
mixes air with gasoline vapor prior to explosion
circle, round
any circular or rotating mechanism
compressor
a mechanical device that compresses gasses
coolant system
a cooling system that uses a fluid to transfer heat from one place to another
cooling tower
a cooling system used in industry to cool hot water (by partial evaporation) before reusing it as a coolant
copyholder
mechanical device used in printing; holds the copy for the compositor
coupler, coupling
a mechanical device that serves to connect the ends of adjacent objects
cruise control
control mechanism for keeping an automobile at a set speed
crimper, curler, hair curler, roller
a mechanical device consisting of a cylindrical tube around which the hair is wound to curl it
dial
the control on a radio or television set that is used for tuning
diaphragm, stop
a mechanical device in a camera that controls size of aperture of the lens
dicer
a mechanical device used for dicing food
disk controller
(computer science) a circuit or chip that translates commands into a form that can control a hard disk drive
electromechanical device
a mechanical device that is operated by electricity
escapement
mechanical device that regulates movement
evaporative cooler
a cooling system that cools by evaporation
Ferris wheel
a vertical rotating mechanism consisting of a large wheel with suspended seats that remain upright as the wheel rotates; provides a ride at an amusement park
first, first gear, low, low gear
the lowest forward gear ratio in the gear box of a motor vehicle; used to start a car moving
fusee, fusee drive
a spirally grooved spindle in a clock that counteracts the diminishing power of the uncoiling mainspring
gearset
a set of gears
gear lever, gearshift, gearstick, shifter
a mechanical device for engaging and disengaging gears
governor, regulator
a control that maintains a steady speed in a machine (as by controlling the supply of fuel)
grab
a mechanical device for gripping an object
firing mechanism, gunlock
the action that ignites the charge in a firearm
gyro, gyroscope
rotating mechanism in the form of a universally mounted spinning wheel that offers resistance to turns in any direction
handwheel
control consisting of a wheel whose rim serves as the handle by which a part is operated
helm
steering mechanism for a vessel; a mechanical device by which a vessel is steered
high, high gear
a forward gear with a gear ratio that gives the greatest vehicle velocity for a given engine speed
claw, hook
a mechanical device that is curved or bent to suspend or hold or pull something
hydraulic transmission, hydraulic transmission system
a transmission that depends on a hydraulic system
joystick
a manual control consisting of a vertical handle that can move freely in two directions; used as an input device to computers or to devices controlled by computers
machine, simple machine
a device for overcoming resistance at one point by applying force at some other point
movement
the driving and regulating parts of a mechanism (as of a watch or clock)
pantograph
mechanical device used to copy a figure or plan on a different scale
park
a gear position that acts as a parking brake
piano action
action consisting of a system of levers that move a felt hammer to strike the strings when a key is depressed
piston, plunger
mechanical device that has a plunging or thrusting motion
pin, pivot
axis consisting of a short shaft that supports something that turns
power steering, power-assisted steering
automotive steering where engineer power amplifies the torque applied to the steering wheel
propeller, propellor
a mechanical device that rotates to push against air or water
pump
a mechanical device that moves fluid or gas by pressure or suction
pump action, slide action
action mechanism in a modern rifle or shotgun; a back and forward motion of a sliding lever ejects the empty shell case and cocks the firearm and loads a new round
rachet, ratch, ratchet
mechanical device consisting of a toothed wheel or rack engaged with a pawl that permits it to move in only one direction
auto-changer, changer, record changer
an automatic mechanical device on a record player that causes new records to be played without manual intervention
refrigeration system
a cooling system for chilling or freezing (usually for preservative purposes)
regulator
any of various controls or devices for regulating or controlling fluid flow, pressure, temperature, etc.
reverse, reverse gear
the gears by which the motion of a machine can be reversed
ride
a mechanical device that you ride for amusement or excitement
positioner, rotary actuator
(computer science) the actuator that moves a read/write head to the proper data track
rotor
rotating mechanism consisting of an assembly of rotating airfoils
rotor head, rotor shaft
the axis around which the major rotor of a helicopter turns
rudder
(nautical) steering mechanism consisting of a hinged vertical plate mounted at the stern of a vessel
second, second gear
the gear that has the second lowest forward gear ratio in the gear box of a motor vehicle
seeder
a mechanical device that sows grass seed or grain evenly over the ground
shutter
a mechanical device on a camera that opens and closes to control the time of a photographic exposure
binding, ski binding
one of a pair of mechanical devices that are attached to a ski and that will grip a ski boot; the bindings should release in case of a fall
splicer
a mechanical device for joining two pieces of paper or film or magnetic tape
splint
an orthopedic mechanical device used to immobilize and protect a part of the body (as a broken leg)
sprinkler
mechanical device that attaches to a garden hose for watering lawn or garden
stator, stator coil
mechanical device consisting of the stationary part of a motor or generator in or around which the rotor revolves
steering gear
a gear that couples the steering wheel to the steering linkage of a motor vehicle
stoker
a mechanical device for stoking a furnace
stretcher
a mechanical device used to make something larger (as shoes or gloves) by stretching it
striker
the part of a mechanical device that strikes something
supply chamber
a mechanical device for holding something and supplying it as needed
swing
mechanical device used as a plaything to support someone swinging back and forth
electric switch, electrical switch, switch
control consisting of a mechanical or electrical or electronic device for making or breaking or changing the connections in a circuit
third, third gear
the third from the lowest forward ratio gear in the gear box of a motor vehicle
pickup, pickup arm, tone arm
mechanical device consisting of a light balanced arm that carries the cartridge
transmission, transmission system
the gears that transmit power from an automobile engine via the driveshaft to the live axle
trap
a device to hurl clay pigeons into the air for trapshooters
typewriter carriage
a carriage for carrying a sheet of paper
valve
control consisting of a mechanical device for controlling the flow of a fluid
vibrator
mechanical device that produces vibratory motion; used for massage
vibrator
a mechanical device that vibrates
voting machine
a mechanical device for recording and counting votes mechanically
vane, weather vane, weathervane, wind vane
mechanical device attached to an elevated structure; rotates freely to show the direction of the wind
wheelwork
mechanical device including an arrangement of wheel in a machine (especially a train of gears)
winder
mechanical device around which something can be wound
key, winder
mechanical device used to wind another device that is driven by a spring (as a clock)
windscreen wiper, windshield wiper, wiper, wiper blade
a mechanical device that cleans the windshield
Type of:
device
an instrumentality invented for a particular purpose

n a natural object resembling a machine in structure or function

“the mechanism of the ear”
“the mechanism of infection”
Types:
show 9 types...
hide 9 types...
barrier
anything serving to maintain separation by obstructing vision or access
transmission mechanism
any mechanism whereby an infectious agent is spread from a reservoir to a human being
biological clock
an innate mechanism in living organisms that controls the periodicity of many physiological functions
airborne transmission
a transmission mechanism in the which the infectious agent is spread as an aerosol and usually enters a person through the respiratory tract
bar
a submerged (or partly submerged) ridge in a river or along a shore
blood-brain barrier
a mechanism that creates a barrier between brain tissues and circulating blood; serves to protect the central nervous system
curtain
any barrier to communication or vision
direct transmission
a transmission mechanism in which the infectious agent is transferred directly into the body via touching or biting or kissing or sexual intercourse or by droplets entering the eye or nose or mouth
indirect transmission
a transmission mechanism in which the infectious agent is transferred to the person by a fomite of vector
Type of:
natural object
an object occurring naturally; not made by man

n the technical aspects of doing something

“a mechanism of social control”
mechanisms of communication”
Synonyms:
mechanics
Type of:
carrying into action, carrying out, execution, performance
the act of performing; of doing something successfully; using knowledge as distinguished from merely possessing it
2

n the atomic process that occurs during a chemical reaction

“he determined unique mechanisms for the photochemical reactions”
Synonyms:
chemical mechanism
Types:
biochemical mechanism
a chemical mechanism involved in vital processes occurring in living organisms
Type of:
chemical action, chemical change, chemical process
(chemistry) any process determined by the atomic and molecular composition and structure of the substances involved
3

n (philosophy) the philosophical theory that all phenomena can be explained in terms of physical or biological causes

Type of:
philosophical doctrine, philosophical theory
a doctrine accepted by adherents to a philosophy

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.