Definition of clockwork in English:



  • [mass noun] A mechanism with a spring and toothed gearwheels, used to drive a mechanical clock, toy, or other device.

    ‘quartz watches are more accurate than those driven by clockwork’
    • ‘More a series of sketches than a linear plot, Mon Oncle operates much like a clockwork: a series of gears, repeated movements that set off countermovements.’
    • ‘He was the talisman, the cog in the clockwork that made the whole mechanism function.’
    • ‘Inventor Trevor Baylis had spent years trying to raise finance for his wind-up clockwork radio.’
    • ‘These Ancients, more ancient than ours but still not literally ancient, saw the world not as a giant clockwork but as an organism.’
    • ‘I can't tell you how long I've been here on this traffic island, the clockwork in my watch rusted to a halt long long ago.’
    • ‘Of inventions which proved to have major significance, only the lens and clockwork travelled in the opposite direction, eastwards across Eurasia.’
    • ‘My mother was like the evil clockwork of some kind of villainous clock gone haywire.’
    • ‘Later on the pinnacle of technology was the clockwork.’
    • ‘Loves are lost, hearts are broken, games become mere clockwork, and his passion dies.’
    • ‘Here's how Sait's son Yousuff describes the clockwork: The wall clock works for a week for one winding.’


  • 1[attributive] Driven by clockwork.

    ‘a clockwork motor’
    • ‘Fine mechanical clockwork components allude to timing and precision; the shells or fossils also refer to time, and the format suggests balance and endurance.’
    • ‘I'd be better off at Lidd with a clockwork dummy than be with you!’
    • ‘Puppets are thus to be distinguished from dolls, clockwork automata, and other toys.’
    • ‘And now that clockwork watches - and clocks themselves - have become virtual antiques, I thought I might be able to make a living doing what I love to do.’
    • ‘She joined Otley Junior Players and her first starring role was as a clockwork doll at the age of five.’
    • ‘To me the shape is more like an orrery, a clockwork model of the solar system.’
    • ‘The new paradigm, moving beyond Newton's majestic clockwork metaphor, guides us to a new way of approaching decisionmaking.’
    • ‘It is a Thirties clockwork race game, in which two tin spaceships take turns to advance along a tramline track.’
    • ‘Danielle jumped up and down and clapped her hands above her head like a clockwork toy gone haywire.’
    • ‘I'm stuck again, eighty feet above the warehouse floor, surrounded by Scooby Doo shampoo, clockwork frogs and sponge basketballs.’
    • ‘Ok, not to worry - they've probably got a back-up clockwork ticker-tape machine lying about somewhere that'll do the job.’
    • ‘Roddick is an investor in Freeplay, the company that manufactures clockwork radios, and Hotel du Vin, the boutique hotel chain.’
    • ‘The baroque churches are glorious, chocolate-box designs, as playful and loveable as the clockwork stars of Toccata for Toy Trains.’
    • ‘They were real passions, and at first I thought ‘hey, wouldn't it be good to use the Internet to trade clockwork tin toys’.’
    • ‘He manages to create a believable world of automatons and clockwork mechanisms against a backdrop of the real world.’
    • ‘Sanderlings are characteristic of sandy beaches, running back and forth, with the ebb and flow of the tide, like so many little clockwork toys.’
    • ‘In the early days they had a clockwork tape recorder, and sat under trees with storytellers and bottles of rum.’
    • ‘The external world appeared to be an automaton, a clockwork mechanism that had been regulated once and for all.’
    • ‘It is not a principle, like a clockwork design applied to the universe: It is an efficient intention, by an intellectual power.’
    • ‘It was gigantic and made of black metal, a great column filled with gears, levers, and pulleys moving together in a chaotic clockwork melee.’
    1. 1.1Very smooth and regular.
      ‘the clockwork precision of the galaxy’
      • ‘He performed a few feats with clockwork precision.’
      • ‘The company is filled with superb technologists who are prepared to obsolete products in their prime and to churn out new ones with clockwork regularity.’
      • ‘The formal structure and brisk tempo of the third movement required almost clockwork precision.’
      • ‘The rest is how the extensive training to enable the three to act on clockwork precision is done and the robbery is met with success.’
      • ‘Crowds have been excellent, the organisation clockwork and the sport on show has been almost universally of the highest standard.’
      • ‘While dub is typically revered for its clockwork rhythm that snaps the mind into a trance, what is heard between the beats and the notes matter just as much.’
      • ‘In fact, war is often the realm of chaos, lacking the sort of clockwork linear predictability so beloved of conventional analysts both inside and outside the military.’
      • ‘With clockwork precision 50 women completed it in 10.42 hours.’
      • ‘His universe was not clockwork and right angled but smoky and numinous.’
      • ‘The entire show was coordinated with clockwork precision by the Adventure Zone staff, headed by Major Swaraj Roy.’
      • ‘Their bodies seemed like a temple for artistic expression that gestured and moved with clockwork precision.’
      • ‘Truly, Hero is so tightly organized that the viewer may balk at its clockwork elegance.’
    2. 1.2Repetitive and predictable.
      ‘it was a clockwork existence for the children’
      • ‘They take place with clockwork regularity all the year round.’
      • ‘It is a life dominated by clockwork routine, in which nothing out of the ordinary ever happens and the future already seems set in concrete.’
      • ‘I ran this house with clockwork efficiency, but I did nothing worthwhile for my own fulfillment.’
      • ‘I watched them both, a little taken aback, as Von Rogoff and Herr Lindstrom made clockwork conversation.’
      • ‘There may be no other director in Hollywood who embodies the clockwork reliability of a fine timepiece more than Ron Howard.’
      • ‘What American audiences want most, she learns, is clockwork morality plays about neglectful mothers and errant wives.’
      • ‘Fires, both natural and human-caused, have burned seasonally dry parts of the island with clockwork regularity for millennia.’
      • ‘For one thing, human beings do not experience themselves as being clockwork automata.’
      • ‘The Metro North commuter trains disturb the local fauna with clockwork regularity.’
      • ‘Jolted by a mugging into the feeling that he is leading a clockwork, incomplete existence, Walker subsequently walks out on his spouse.’
      • ‘Yet there was only one recorded clockwork crime, in which a tramp was beaten to death by a teenager.’
      • ‘It was truly amazing to the young man how clockwork Marcus was, each poster, every billboard, he spent a specific amount of time on it, no more, no less.’
      • ‘The clockwork appearance of periodical cicadas in late May to mid-June has long fascinated, and perplexed, entomologists.’
      • ‘Regular as clockwork, you see drug dealers at the same times in the same places, five times a day, for drug drop-offs.’
      • ‘Reductionist science grew from the clockwork logic of Descartes.’
      • ‘In the clockwork universe outlined by Newton and his followers, one can calculate, and hence predict, everything.’
      • ‘She's having marital difficulties, but can't stop fixating on her clockwork household.’
      • ‘Children slept in dormitories, they ate together in silence, and they lived their days to a clockwork routine which never varied.’
      • ‘Kant's private life is often parodied as one of clockwork routine, fastidious, donnish, and self-centred.’
      • ‘Today he moved like a clockwork man, functioning in precise patterns, thinking of nothing and feeling none.’
      monotonous, tedious, boring, uninteresting, humdrum, mundane, tiresome, wearisome, dreary, soul-destroying, mind-numbing
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