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

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 One such trait is musicality, the cognitive and neural mechanism underlying basic music behavior (as distinct from music, which is a product of history and cultural identity). David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Arts & Culture Newsletter: City Ballet’s ‘A Masquerade Nutcracker’," 31 Dec. 2020 The underlying mechanism involves pouring a sample onto a strip of absorbent material typically embedded with antibodies. Miriam Fauzia, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Improper use of COVID-19 test gives false positive for Coca-Cola," 31 Dec. 2020 The goal is the same -- make sure everyone has the skills to do the homework -- but the delivery mechanism has evolved to better fit the online environment. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska students share their secrets to distance learning success," 28 Dec. 2020 Whether an inoculation will prevent infection partly depends on the vaccine’s mechanism of action. Kate Baggaley, Popular Science, "Can you spread COVID-19 after vaccination? Here’s what we know.," 28 Dec. 2020 By the same mechanism, HIV infections allow other viruses in the individual to last longer and morph. Roxanne Khamsi, Wired, "Here’s a Plan to Stop the Coronavirus From Mutating," 24 Dec. 2020 The replacement bump stock mechanism can fire much faster than a normal gun user can pull the trigger, dramatically increasing the gun's rate of fire. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "A Guide to Every Type of Gun," 24 Dec. 2020 Waxing and Sugaring Waxing and sugaring use the same mechanism as tweezing but with warm substances (i.e. wax and sugar) that sit on top of the skin and around the hair to coax it out of the follicle. Sarah Kinonen, Allure, "The Science of Beauty: The Complete Guide to Body Hair," 23 Dec. 2020 Codetermination stands alone as the most powerful mechanism of capitalism for improving working class economics. George Tyler, Fortune, "Biden can create better jobs by giving workers a seat at the boardroom table," 22 Dec. 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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Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mechanism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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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 mechanism (audio) \ adjective

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Comments on mechanism

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