mech·​a·​nism | \ ˈme-kə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce mechanism (audio) \

Definition of mechanism

1a : a piece of machinery (see machinery sense 1) The camera's shutter mechanism is broken.
b : a process, technique, or system for achieving a result the mechanisms of peace— F. D. Roosevelt
2 : mechanical operation or action : working sense 2 he acknowledges nothing besides matter and motion; so that all must be performed either by mechanism or by accident— Richard Bentley
3 : a doctrine that holds natural processes (as of life) to be mechanically determined and capable of complete explanation by the laws of physics and chemistry
4 : the fundamental processes involved in or responsible for an action, reaction, or other natural phenomenon meteorologists believe that this pressure jump is the mechanism responsible for storms and tornadoesThink — compare defense mechanism

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Examples of mechanism in a Sentence

The camera's shutter mechanism is broken. Scientists are studying the body's mechanisms for controlling weight. There is no mechanism in place for enforcing the new law. a legal mechanism to prevent lobbyists from exerting unfair influence psychological mechanisms for dealing with a tragic loss
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Recent Examples on the Web Free, decentralized market mechanisms fail in settings of extreme scarcity where the goal is to save as many lives as possible. Fanyin Zheng, Fortune, "States cannot fight coronavirus alone. The federal government must step up," 21 Mar. 2020 The company's supply chain is the mechanism that enables those restaurants to sling burgers, fries and beverages to millions of people every day. CNN, "It took three years, but here's how she got 14,000 McDonald's stores to switch to fresh beef," 13 Mar. 2020 This is a mechanism to keep working through what is going to be a hard season for this country. Ellen Fort, Sunset Magazine, "Seattle Fine Dining Icon Canlis Shifts to Drive-Thru and Delivery Amid Coronavirus Concerns," 12 Mar. 2020 The House Energy and Commerce bill also shouldn’t rely on market mechanisms to reduce emissions, Ross added, pointing in particular to the clean electricity standard the bill would set up to target carbon emissions from the power sector. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "'Staggering failure': Environmentalists slam House Democratic flagship climate bill," 9 Mar. 2020 If that’s not true, then there has been no change in the strength of sunlight reaching the Earth, and there is no mechanism for their centuries-long warming trend. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Paper that claimed the Sun caused global warming gets retracted," 6 Mar. 2020 However, there is no specific mechanism to ensure these changes go into effect after Abele leaves office in April. Ricardo Torres, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Addressing racial inequalities would drive budget decisions under proposed Milwaukee County ordinance," 2 Mar. 2020 The eye uses real-time mass spectrometry to examine how the components interact inside a solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI), which is the mechanism that powers most of our batteries. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "What Happens Inside a Battery to Make It Catch Fire?," 10 Feb. 2020 Trade agreements have the potential to be a key mechanism by which China—now the top total emitter of greenhouse gases—is brought to the climate crisis fight, as well. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "The New U.S. Trade Deal Is Climate Sabotage," 17 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mechanism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of mechanism

1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for mechanism

Time Traveler

The first known use of mechanism was in 1662

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Statistics for mechanism

Last Updated

25 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mechanism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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More Definitions for mechanism


How to pronounce mechanism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mechanism

: a piece of machinery : a mechanical part or group of parts having a particular function
: a process or system that is used to produce a particular result
: a way of acting, thinking, or behaving that helps or protects a person in a specified way


mech·​a·​nism | \ ˈme-kə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce mechanism (audio) \

Kids Definition of mechanism

1 : a piece of machinery
2 : the parts by which a machine operates the mechanism of a watch
3 : the parts or steps that make up a process or activity the mechanism of government


mech·​a·​nism | \ ˈmek-ə-ˌniz-əm How to pronounce mechanism (audio) \

Medical Definition of mechanism

1 : a piece of machinery
2a : a bodily process or function the mechanism of healing
b : the combination of mental processes by which a result is obtained psychological mechanisms
3 : the fundamental physical or chemical processes involved in or responsible for an action, reaction, or other natural phenomenon

Other Words from mechanism

mechanistic \ ˌmek-​ə-​ˈnis-​tik How to pronounce mechanistic (audio) \ adjective

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Comments on mechanism

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