Would you call a wooden horse technology? I would, and I’ll tell you why. Technology is usually described as knowledge and skills applied in an accomplishment of objectives. Now, do you remember the smart “horse-plan” of Odysseus that eventually helped Greeks to capture Troy? Skillful and quite cunning realization! (It is not a mere coincidence that those annoying computer programs misrepresenting themselves as interesting and helpful in order to be installed on your device - but, in fact, malicious and destructive - are called Trojan horses).
Legend or not, the wooden horse was just one of the reasons behind the representation of Odysseus as a technological perk in the epics. According to the ancient literary tradition, he was the most experienced user of “techne” (τέχνη) in the Greek world. The word “techne” meant “art, craft, skill” and quite a number of English words have originated from it, such as technology, technique, technical, and technocracy. The Greek noun derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teks – which primary meaning was “to weave, to fabricate”. That is what exactly Odysseus did during his famous travel back to Ithaca– he fabricated stories, plans, artifacts... and he survived.
With the time the notion of “techne” stretched and started to nominate different activities that require specific skills and cunning hands - the craft of a metalworker, of the shipwright, or even of a diviner. It entered our modern time containing all those complex notions.
Machinery – Machine – Mechanical - Mechanism
Machinery is a word defining a group of (mechanical) parts that function together. Mechanism gives us a similar notion. They both are related to the ancient Greek verb “mechanaomai” (μηχανάομαι) that presents an idea close to the noun “techne”. The verb means “to contrive, to devise applying art or cunning” and could be recognized in the stem of other words such as machine and mechanical. They all can be traced back to the Greek noun “mechane” (μηχανή) with a primary meaning of “contrivance”. According to the ancient literature, “mechanai” (μηχαναί, pl. from “mechane”) were usually used by gods to interfere in the human world. A bad turn or a twist in somebody’s life was often interpreted as “mehanai Dios” – "the trick of Zeus".
Curiously, the combination of the “ch” in those words is read differently – as [k] in machinery, mechanical, and mechanism, and as [∫] in machine. And neither of them do not represent the original Greek sound, which is actually [h] like in happy. There are many words in English that have this “ch” combination pronounced as [k]. They all represent borrowings from ancient Greek (such as chronic, chaos, technology, chorus, character)
The [∫] sound in machine comes from the fact that the word was taken from the Latin “machina”. In Latin, this noun acquired more factual meaning and started to denote any artificial contrivance for performing work. Besides a “plan” and a “trick”, it meant also:
1. “military machine”
The last denomination gave birth to the popular expression Deus ex machina literary meaning “God from the machine”. At first, it was used as a theatrical term describing a plot device that helps to resolve a seemingly unsolvable problem on the stage. It was introduced by the Greek play writer Aeschylus as a crane that brought to the scene actors playing gods. They abruptly interfered into the theatrical plot putting an end of complex events that happened in the play. The effect of that device was complete astonishment of the audience that added to the enhancing the moral force of the ancient drama.
In the time, “Deus ex machina” acquired more abstract notion. In the modern theater, it started to present a personage from the play whose sudden intervention in the plot helps for untangling of complicated situations. Shakespear and Molière have often resorted to such unexpected turn of the story line.
Engine is another modern English word that has drawn its notion from the concept of human creativity. It comes from the Latin noun “ingenium” that signified “inner quality, natural capacity, talent, ability”. Related to the Latin verb “gignere” it came from the Proto-Indo-European root *gen- “to give birth”, “to beget”, “to produce”.
The word entered English through Old French where it denoted “skill, cleverness” but also “trick” and “deceit”. The last two meanings developed even further and established new denotations of the word with military sense, such as “stratagem” and “war machine”.
It might sound oddly, but engine is cognate to words like “genius”, “gene”, and “generation” (for more on that see that post). They all share the same PIE root mentioned above which makes it crystal clear why it takes a bit of a genius to construct an engine, right?
The notion of a “mechanical device that uses power” was born in the 18th century with the spreading of the so-called Industry Revolution. Initially denoting steam powered machines, today engines are called devices that transform energy (mainly through burning fuel) and turn it into a mechanical motion.