noun, plural mag·ne·tos. 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.

Origin of magneto

First recorded in 1880–85; short for magnetoelectric generator
Also called magnetoelectric generator, magnetogenerator.


a combining form representing magnetic or magnetism in compound words: magnetochemistry.
Also especially before a vowel, magnet-. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for magneto

Contemporary Examples of magneto

Historical Examples of magneto

  • 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.

  • It is usually run by suitable gearing direct from the shaft of the magneto.


    James Slough Zerbe

  • As stated, a magneto is a special type of dynamo which will now be explained.


    James Slough Zerbe

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

British Dictionary definitions for magneto


noun plural -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 for magneto

C19: short for magnetoelectric generator


combining form

indicating magnetism or magnetic propertiesmagnetosphere
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 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