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[mek-uh-niz-uh m]
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  1. an assembly of moving parts performing a complete functional motion, often being part of a large machine; linkage.
  2. the agency or means by which an effect is produced or a purpose is accomplished.
  3. machinery or mechanical appliances in general.
  4. the structure or arrangement of parts of a machine or similar device, or of anything analogous.
  5. the mechanical part of something; any mechanical device: the mechanism of a clock.
  6. routine methods or procedures; mechanics: the mechanism of government.
  7. mechanical execution, as in painting or music; technique.
  8. the theory that everything in the universe is produced by matter in motion; materialism.Compare dynamism(def 1), vitalism(def 1).
  9. Philosophy.
    1. the view that all natural processes are explicable in terms of Newtonian mechanics.
    2. the view that all biological processes may be described in physicochemical terms.
  10. Psychoanalysis. the habitual operation and interaction of psychological forces within an individual that assist in interpreting or dealing with the physical or psychological environment.

Origin of mechanism

1655–65; < New Latin mēchanismus; Late Latin mēchanisma a contrivance < Greek mēchan(ḗ) machine + New Latin -ismus, Late Latin -isma -ism
Related formsmech·a·nis·mic, adjectivean·ti·mech·an·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for mechanism


  1. a system or structure of moving parts that performs some function, esp in a machine
  2. something resembling a machine in the arrangement and working of its partsthe mechanism of the ear
  3. any form of mechanical device or any part of such a device
  4. a process or technique, esp of executionthe mechanism of novel writing
  5. philosophy
    1. the doctrine that human action can be explained in purely physical terms, whether mechanical or biological
    2. the explanation of phenomena in causal rather than teleological or essentialist terms
    3. the view that the task of science is to seek such explanations
    4. strict determinismCompare dynamism, vitalism
  6. psychoanal
    1. the ways in which psychological forces interact and operate
    2. a structure having an influence on the behaviour of a person, such as a defence mechanism
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

Word Origin and History for mechanism


1660s, from Modern Latin mechanismus, from Greek mekhane "machine, instrument" (see machine (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mechanism in Medicine

defense mechanism

  1. Any of a variety of usually unconscious mental processes used to protect oneself from shame, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, conflict, or other unacceptable feelings or thoughts, and including behaviors such as repression, projection, denial, and rationalization.
  2. immunological mechanism