a small mechanical device, as a knob or switch, especially one whose name is not known or cannot be recalled; gadget: a row of widgets on the instrument panel.
something considered typical or representative, as of a manufacturer's products: the widgets coming off the assembly line.

1925–30; perhaps alteration of gadget

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World English Dictionary
widget (ˈwɪdʒɪt)
1.  informal any small mechanism or device, the name of which is unknown or temporarily forgotten
2.  a small device in a beer can which, when the can is opened, releases nitrogen gas into the beer, giving it a head
3.  a small computer program that can be installed on and executed from the desktop of a personal computer
[C20: changed from gadget]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon
Main Entry:  widget
Part of Speech:  n
Definition:  an element of a graphical user interface such as a button or scroll bar; also, a module of software for a personalized Web page
Example:  The widget allows you to have "things to be happy about" on your Web site.
Etymology:  1987
Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon
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Word Origin & History

"gadget, small manufactured item," c.1920, Amer.Eng., probably an alteration of gadget, perhaps based on which it.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Computing Dictionary

widget definition

1. A meta-thing. Used to stand for a real object in didactic examples (especially database tutorials). Legend has it that the original widgets were holders for buggy whips. "But suppose the parts list for a widget has 52 entries..."
2. [possibly evoking "window gadget"] In graphical user interfaces, a combination of a graphic symbol and some program code to perform a specific function. E.g. a scroll-bar or button. Windowing systems usually provide widget libraries containing commonly used widgets drawn in a certain style and with consistent behaviour.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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Example sentences
Start with headlines in the widget and read any story with a single click.
They represent the amount of money needed to pay your staff to make one unit of
  output, one widget.
She's talking about a matchbox-sized widget that museums use to monitor
  humidity and temperature in their galleries.
These envelopes have a small widget inside onto which you record a ten-second
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