One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Any of various machines which operate by means of the rotation of one or more screws or screw-like components.
2Originally: any of various machines used for making screws. In later use: (more fully "automatic screw machine") any of various automatic lathes designed to produce a large number of worked pieces in a short time.
3More fully "standard screw machine". A machine used for attaching soles to shoes by inserting and cutting off lengths of threaded wire. Now historical and rare.
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in Catalogue Clocks, Watches & Other Machines. From screw + machine.
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