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[mek-uh-niz-uh m] /ˈmɛk əˌnɪz əm/
an assembly of moving parts performing a complete functional motion, often being part of a large machine; linkage.
the agency or means by which an effect is produced or a purpose is accomplished.
machinery or mechanical appliances in general.
the structure or arrangement of parts of a machine or similar device, or of anything analogous.
the mechanical part of something; any mechanical device:
the mechanism of a clock.
routine methods or procedures; mechanics:
the mechanism of government.
mechanical execution, as in painting or music; technique.
the theory that everything in the universe is produced by matter in motion; materialism.
Compare dynamism (def 1), vitalism (def 1).
  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.
Psychoanalysis. the habitual operation and interaction of psychological forces within an individual that assist in interpreting or dealing with the physical or psychological environment.
1655-65; < New Latin mēchanismus; Late Latin mēchanisma a contrivance < Greek mēchan() machine + New Latin -ismus, Late Latin -isma -ism
Related forms
mechanismic, adjective
antimechanism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mechanism
  • The initial mechanism whereby people with distinctive tastes and preferences are brought together is the college sorting machine.
  • Researchers have determined the mechanism by which the world's simplest vision system works.
  • The chemical mechanism that controls a plant's response to short or long nights is complex, but the logic is simple.
  • Egghead's approach includes a financing mechanism to support graduate research into public history.
  • In other words, it would be a mechanism of transfers from the surplus to the deficit countries.
  • mechanism by which microbes scrub radioactive contamination revealed.
  • Its handsome detailing shows off the wheel-and-track mechanism.
  • As a defense mechanism when eaten, tobacco plants produce nicotine in the leaves that are toxic to many insects.
  • However, the reward mechanism in academia largely acknowledges individual success, effort and product.
  • Using this system, the researchers realised that they might be able to copy the eel's electricity-generation mechanism.
British Dictionary definitions for mechanism


a system or structure of moving parts that performs some function, esp in a machine
something resembling a machine in the arrangement and working of its parts: the mechanism of the ear
any form of mechanical device or any part of such a device
a process or technique, esp of execution: the mechanism of novel writing
  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 determinism Compare dynamism, vitalism
  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
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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
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mechanism in Medicine

mechanism mech·a·nism (měk'ə-nĭz'əm)

  1. A machine or mechanical appliance.

  2. The arrangement of connected parts in a machine.

  3. A system of parts that operate or interact like those of a machine.

  4. An instrument or a process by which something is done or comes into being.

  5. The involuntary and consistent response of an organism to a given stimulus.

  6. A usually unconscious mental and emotional pattern that dominates behavior in a given situation or environment.

  7. The sequence of steps in a chemical reaction.

  8. The philosophical doctrine that all natural phenomena are explicable by material causes and mechanical principles.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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