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[mag-nee-toh] /mægˈni toʊ/
noun, plural magnetos. Electricity.
a small electric generator with an armature that rotates in a magnetic field provided by permanent magnets, as a generator supplying ignition current for certain types of internal combustion engines or a hand-operated generator for telephone signaling.
Also called magnetoelectric generator, magnetogenerator.
Origin of magneto
First recorded in 1880-85; short for magnetoelectric generator


a combining form representing magnetic, or magnetism, in compound words:
Also, especially before a vowel, magnet-. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for magneto
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They are dependent upon a magneto which is dependent only upon faith.

    Free Air Sinclair Lewis
  • The magneto was run by a belt from one of the ballonet blowers.

    The War in the Air; Vol. 1 Walter Raleigh.
  • As stated, a magneto is a special type of dynamo which will now be explained.

    Motors James Slough Zerbe
  • It is usually run by suitable gearing direct from the shaft of the magneto.

    Motors James Slough Zerbe
  • Provided the magneto were all right, he felt that he might get started again after all.

  • Evidently there was something the matter inside the magneto.

British Dictionary definitions for magneto


noun (pl) -tos
a small electric generator in which the magnetic field is produced by a permanent magnet, esp one for providing the spark in an internal-combustion engine
Word Origin
C19: short for magnetoelectric generator


combining form
indicating magnetism or magnetic properties: magnetosphere
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for magneto

1882, short for magneto-electric machine (see magneto-).


word-forming element meaning "magnetic, magnetism," from Greek magneto-, combining form of magnes (see magnet).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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