Definition of mechanism in English:



  • 1A system of parts working together in a machine; a piece of machinery.

    ‘the gunner injured his arm in the turret mechanism’
    • ‘The slight hiss is, to my ears, about the same as the tape mechanism in my van - maybe even a bit less.’
    • ‘Over his own grunts and snarls, he failed to hear the snap of the trigger mechanism.’
    • ‘As soon as they are about to hit the trigger mechanism, bang the coin-return button.’
    • ‘In his mind Harry began going over the internal mechanisms of this particular old heap of unobliging metal.’
    • ‘Protecting lift shafts and mechanisms so they can safely be used for evacuation should also be considered.’
    • ‘Children had to be able to tolerate and avoid touching the catheter and the pump mechanism.’
    • ‘Staff were also seen checking the mechanism which worked the electronic security gates at the end of the drive.’
    • ‘However, it is rather puzzling that only in this part of the zones such triggering mechanisms did not operate.’
    • ‘A lift mechanism for raising the tray carrier into the enclosure is also disclosed.’
    • ‘All this is conventional, except for the projection forward of present-day mechanisms and gadgetry.’
    • ‘Our clock is a superb piece of engineering, and has a mechanism that is almost identical to Big Ben in London.’
    • ‘Gears are precision mechanisms only if quality is consistent from tooth to tooth.’
    • ‘The valve train consists of the valves and a mechanism that opens and closes them.’
    • ‘These two holes must be coordinated so the mechanism will properly fit together.’
    • ‘The engineer was one of her agents, and he had a special mechanism in the engine.’
    • ‘A bright spark shot up the length of the bolt into the chamber of the locking mechanism, triggering the circuitry to release the lock.’
    • ‘The mechanism for lifting the grate lay in a concealed room of the cave that was on the right of the stairs.’
    • ‘He ducked at the sound of the trigger mechanism and dodged the gunfire completely.’
    • ‘Felix is a very clever engineer who designs mechanisms that in the end are very simple and also easy to maintain.’
    • ‘These trigger mechanisms depend on several conditions being ‘right’ at the same time.’
    apparatus, machine, appliance, tool, device, implement, utensil, instrument, contraption, contrivance, gadget, tackle, structure, system
    procedure, process, system, operation, method, technique, workings, means, medium, agency, channel, channels, vehicle, structure
    machinery, workings, works, movement, motion, action, gear, gears, wheels, components, motor, engine, power source
    View synonyms
  • 2A natural or established process by which something takes place or is brought about.

    ‘we have no mechanism for assessing the success of forwarded inquiries’
    ‘the mechanism by which genes build bodies’
    • ‘It is an uncertainty she lives with every day, but her coping mechanisms have got better over the years.’
    • ‘Administration would be based on existing interprovincial mechanisms, the report says.’
    • ‘Rather, they encourage the body's own healing mechanisms to restore its natural equilibrium.’
    • ‘Could it be that our coping mechanisms are working for us and therefore we don't think it's so much of a challenge?’
    • ‘Higher plants have developed several elaborate mechanisms to ward off pathogen attack.’
    • ‘Many of our mechanisms to develop and deliver rights protection contain covert begging processes.’
    • ‘A plebiscite process is a democratic mechanism to ensure that the people get to choose.’
    • ‘There is now no doubt that natural selection is a mechanism of evolutionary change.’
    • ‘The Iraqi people must have an effective mechanism to bring complaints against soldiers who abuse their human rights.’
    • ‘Many organisms have natural mechanisms for protecting themselves from the toxic effects of metals.’
    • ‘However, the underlying mechanism that brings about this restriction is less well understood.’
    • ‘It pulverises those delicate social mechanisms that control our baser motives.’
    • ‘All of these coping mechanisms have had a serious impact on the function of the family.’
    • ‘There were also more general mechanisms which brought private life under the public gaze.’
    • ‘The site has a simple registration process and a mechanism to ensure that both the seller and buyer get a fair deal.’
    • ‘The conference also established the mechanism through which the Alliance would operate.’
    • ‘Also known as splitting, there is some suggestion that this arises in early childhood as a coping mechanism.’
    • ‘It is also of significance in new drug development based on the mechanism of Chinese medicine.’
    • ‘Natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability.’
    • ‘Extensive investigations have failed to detect such a mechanism of gene transfer in crop plants.’
    procedure, process, system, operation, method, technique, workings, means, medium, agency, channel, channels, vehicle, structure
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1A contrivance in the plot of a literary work.
      ‘his Irma La Douce is a musical based on the farce mechanism’
      • ‘The internal struggles of the group are hopelessly dramatised, reading off like the plot mechanisms that they are.’
      • ‘Shakespeare uses all the mechanisms of alienation, including self-conscious reference to the theatrical situation, interpolated songs, and schematic or symbolic representation of abstract ideas.’
      • ‘For novelists more interested in reanimating history, the varieties of his characters' personal languages, and the double-plot mechanism of the history plays themselves, modelled ways of representing the imagined past.’
  • 3Philosophy
    The doctrine that all natural phenomena, including life and thought, allow mechanical explanation by physics and chemistry.

    • ‘It was based on antiquated natural history; he was unaffected by mechanism or Newtonianism.’
    • ‘Yet mechanism and postmodernism are linked by a common distrust of human subjectivity.’
    • ‘It is a different type of physics than that peddled by mechanism.’
    • ‘Much of this controversy stemmed from the argument of mechanism versus vitalism.’
    • ‘For Bergson, it is because the scientific pursuit is based on the principle of mechanism.’


Mid 17th century: from modern Latin mechanismus, from Greek mēkhanē (see machine).