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 European countries who have been trying to salvage the deal responded earlier this week by invoking a dispute mechanism that is aimed at bringing Iran back into compliance and could result in even more sanctions. Time, "Iran's Supreme Leader Calls Trump a 'Clown' in Friday Prayers Sermon," 17 Jan. 2020 Deal supporters have argued that Trump’s withdrawal means the United States is no longer a participant and is thus ineligible to invoke the snapback mechanism., "Horse-trading Iran hawks seize on Pompeo’s Senate interest - The Boston Globe," 16 Dec. 2019 Enforcement The agreement will include a dispute-resolution mechanism that will serve as the enforcement arm. Fortune, "What’s in the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Deal—and What’s Not," 16 Dec. 2019 Till now, the IBC had provided a resolution mechanism for only corporate defaults. Sangeeta Tanwar, Quartz India, "India’s insolvency code for non-banking finance firms only raises more questions," 28 Nov. 2019 The prescription requirement was the key mechanism that limited large scale compounding by (these) pharmacies, so removing that requirement comes with some risks. Ed Silverman, STAT, "FDA takes another step to ease shortages of drugs for Covid-19 patients on ventilators," 20 Apr. 2020 As for the vows repeated by everyone to respect an arms embargo, Berlin’s meeting produced no enforcement mechanism. Nikos Chrysoloras,, "Brussels Edition: Seeking a Way Forward in Libya," 7 Apr. 2020 But there are screening mechanisms, including testing, that could be employed in order to reduce the chances of the baby acquiring the infection. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, "As Some New York Hospitals Ban Birth Partners, a Doctor Weighs In," 27 Mar. 2020 The consequences and enforcement mechanisms have been inconsistent, however. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "How Much of the World Will Be Quarantined by the Coronavirus?," 9 Mar. 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

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mechanism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 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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