- (before the use of steam and other power), any mechanical device used to carry out a function.
15th century. From Latin, ingenium, meaning natural capacity.
Now refers to any propulsive motor such as steam, nuclear, diesel, gasoline, or electric. However, the word is older than most think. The old meaning of the word is fairly vague and can likely refer to any sort of mechanical device that drives or works something. Imagine toys using spring tension or rubber bands to drive them. Such mechanical energy would be imparted to them from their engines.
Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport.