What machine adds to “tool”

A machine is a kind of tool, and we can see a particularly clear example of what “machine” adds to the genus “tool” in the word mower. A hundred years ago, a mower was the name of a person; now it is the name for a tool. Before this, there was a similar change in the meaning of thresher and reaper. The same is true (in America at least) of the word street sweeper. To see what machine adds to tool, one could ask why the primary meanings of these words changed.


  1. Brandon said,

    May 27, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Another example to add to the mix — ‘computer’ used to mean a person who did calculations.

  2. May 28, 2010 at 3:58 am


  3. David Smith said,

    May 28, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Peripherally interesting, “machine tool” is a tool that is a machine that is used to make tools (which may or may not be machines) – for example: (metal) lathe.

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