From Middle English mechanical, mechanicalle, mechanycalle, equivalent to mechanic +‎ -al.


  • IPA(key): /mɪˈkænɪk(ə)l/
  • Audio (US):(file)



mechanical (comparative more mechanical, superlative most mechanical)

  1. (now rare) Characteristic of someone who does manual labour for a living; coarse, vulgar.
  2. Related to mechanics (the branch of physics that deals with forces acting on mass).
    mechanical engineering
  3. Related to mechanics (the design and construction of machines).
    mechanical dictionary
  4. Done by machine.
    mechanical task
  5. Using mechanics (the design and construction of machines): being a machine.
    mechanical arm
  6. (figurative) As if performed by a machine: lifeless, mindless, thoughtless, automatic.
    a mechanical reply to a question
  7. (of a person) Acting as if one were a machine: lifeless or mindless.
    The pianist was too mechanical.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XV, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      Edward Churchill still attended to his work in a hopeless mechanical manner like a sleep-walker who walks safely on a well-known round. But his Roman collar galled him, his cossack stifled him, his biretta was as uncomfortable as a merry-andrew's cap and bells.
  8. (informal) Handy with machines.
    Why don't you ask Joe to fix it? He's very mechanical.

Derived terms






mechanical (plural mechanicals)

  1. (advertising) Manually created layout of artwork that is camera ready for photographic reproduction.
    • 1980, Henry C. Latimer, Production planning and repro mechanicals for offset printing, page 92:
      Since we are dealing with copy in paste-up form, we are now concerned with the preparation and assembly of elements suitable for camera-ready copy, positioned on the mechanical according to the rough layout supplied.
    • 1982, Jerry Demoney, Susan E. Meyer, Pasteups & mechanicals: a step-by-step guide to preparing art for reproduction:
      We'll start with a simple mechanical for a standard 7" x 10" ad, using one block of copy, some display type, and one picture.
    • 2009, New York State Sales and Use Tax Law and Regulations:
      In order to produce the posters, the advertising agency purchases photographs, composition and artwork and fabricates such property to produce layouts and mechanicals.
  2. One who does manual labor, especially one who is similar to Shakespeare's rude mechanicals
    • 1989, A J Smithers, Rude Mechanicals: An account of Tank Maturity during the Second World War, →ISBN, page 3:
      Rude mechanicals must know their place in a horsey army.
    • 2011, Ronda Arab, Manly Mechanicals on the Early Modern English Stage, →ISBN:
      Furthermore, when the play juxtaposes aristocratic violence with artisanal civility, it shows the artisans as the social group that better embodies civility, and the mocking accusations of bestial inferiority leveled at the mechanicals by the aristrocratic characters are revealed as a hollow discourse that attempts to bolster and naturalize established privilege.
    • 2011, Max Milano, The Mechanicals of Recoleta, →ISBN, page 198:
      Zoe could not believe her eyes: this man looked nothing like the Uncle Max of her memories and nightmares; this chubby old man looked like a dwarfed bon vivant, a lecherous Santa Klaus, a comical figure in an opera, a "mechanical" from a Shakespeare play.
  3. (science fiction) A robot or mechanical creature.
    • 2012, Cindy Spencer Pape, Moonlight & Mechanicals, →ISBN, page 90:
      Is it a mechanical, or a man in a clockwork suit?
    • 2013, Gregory Benford, Sailing Bright Eternity: Galactic Centre, →ISBN:
      Mechanicals arose when advanced, organic societies somehow committed suicide, from war, degeneration, unimaginable things -- or retreated, from plain simple lack of interest in the tensions of the technological life.
    • 2013, Alan Dean Foster, Greenthieves, →ISBN:
      This is an example of what can take place when mechanicals are programmed with human attributes and designed to interact closely with humans.
  4. (engineering) A mechanical engineer.
    • 1910, Michigan Alumnus - Volume 16, page 302:
      When the older courses had been separated from the literary curriculum eight years the civils, mechanicals and electricals had changed their relative positions four times.
    • 1920, The Kansas Engineer - Issues 6-8, page 24:
      A membership campaign was carried on early in the year and quite a number of the new mechanicals were reached, as well as a number of the old men who had slipped by the wayside.
    • 2012, Allan Young, The Return of the Prairie Rose, →ISBN, page 4:
      "I don't need a clerk," he said. "What I need is more engineers, mechanicals, especially."
  5. (cycling) An instance of equipment failure.
    • 2010, Andy Allsopp, Barring Mechanicals - from London to Edinburgh and Back, on a Recumbent Bicycle, →ISBN, page 96:
      The pack are suffering mechanicals and pull up under a lamp post marking a right turn.
    • 2012, Clive Forth, The Pocket Mountain Bike Trail Guide: Your slope saviour, →ISBN, page 11:
      Equipment back then was less capable than it is today, and we often had to deal with mechanical failures, also called mechanicals and the odd injury which we called 'bio-mechanicals'.
    • 2014, Vince Major, The Smoke Ring - An Orbital Route Around London, →ISBN, page 12:
      The support can be there when you need it for major mechanicals, other emergencies and to transport all your gear to the next overnight stop.
  6. (music) A stop on an organ that is operated by a hand or foot control rather than having to be manually set up in advance.
    • 1914, Expositor and Current Anecdotes - Volume 16, page 353:
      On the other hand I heard only recently of a modern marvel — an organ of two manuals and about sixteen or eighteen stops with adequate and modern mechanicals that the pastor assures me has not been touched by repairer or even by tuner in four years!
    • 1911, The New Music Review and Church Music Review:
      Some would like the smallest number of foot mechanicals and the greatest number of hand mechanicals; some would like to do away with the crescendo pedal; some would prefer less diapason foundation; others would want a predominance of salty reeds ;
    • 1961, Thomas Scott Godfrey Burhrman, The American Organist - Volume 44, page 16:
      Mechanicals within the organ need repair; the tonal resources and much of the voicing might well be expanded and updated.
  7. (archaic) A machine that performs a job typically accomplished using an animal or manual labor.
    • 2012, Lyn Brittan, Of Magic and Engineering, →ISBN:
      Roland jumped on the horse and with herculean strength picked her up one armed and plopped her down in front of him. “I've had my fill of mechanicals of late. Hold on.”
    • 2014, Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden: Stories, →ISBN:
      Above all things, I liked to hear about horseless carriages and self-powered mechanicals, but I'd settle for ghosts at a pinch.
    • 2015, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Safe Haven: The Steamship Chronicles, →ISBN:
      The laws had yet to catch up to this new world where blacksmiths could put out steam-driven mechanicals and the new industry raised country merchants to the big houses.



Further reading

  • "mechanical" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 201.