Motor or Engine

My question is related to the technical correctness of referring to a car’s power plant. Is it correct to refer to it as a “motor?” Or, is it correct to call it an “engine?” My instinct tell me “engine” is correct but I’m willing to hear other opinions.

IMHO, an engine is internal combustion, steam, etc. and a motor is electrically powered for the most part.

They’re interchanged quite a bit though; as in “motorcycle”.

Yes, there is a technical difference. An engine generates motion from its own power, as in a steam engine or diesel engine. A motor is a device that must receive its power from some outside source, typically electricity.

The distinction may be important to engineers but everyone else uses the terms interchangeably, as they do for weight and mass.

mo?tor (m??t?r) n. 1. Something, such as a machine or an engine, that produces or imparts motion. 2. A device that converts any form of energy into mechanical energy, especially an internal-combustion engine or an arrangement of coils and magnets that converts electric current into mechanical power.

en?gine (?n?j?n) n. Abbr. eng. 1.a. A machine that converts energy into mechanical force or motion. b. Such a machine distinguished from an electric, spring-driven, or hydraulic motor by its use of a fuel.

I’ve heard this idea before, that it’s incorrect to describe an automobile engine as a motor. However, the department of Motor Vehicles, Indianapolous Motor Speedway, Harley Davidson Motorcycles, the entire motorboat industry, the Motor Vehicle Registry, Motor Trend magazine, and countless other agencies official and unofficial use the term “motor” to describe internal combustion engines. It has to be an acceptable use. If yo doubt me, try aruing against your next Motor Vehicle Violation using that argument. The judge will get a laugh out of it.

While all this may be true, it is a pet pieve of mine just like misuse of to, two, too. I refer to engine as internal combustion and motors as in electric.

I’ve never head the anyone refer to a 4 cycle motor, or steam motor. Just because half the world can’t get it straight just shows their ignorance and doesn’t make it correct.

IMHO anyway

Um…the Department of Motor Vehicles actually has a legal definition recognized and accepted by the legislature and the courts. If everyone else official and unofficial, including the legislature and the motor vehicle industries (cars, motorcyle, motorboats, scooters, industry magazines), uses the term “motor”, then those of us who argue against it have already lost the argument.

It’s an engine, on another forum that I frequent calling it a motor will get you a bunch of nasty comments. IMHO, it’s not a big deal.

Sorry anonymous but citing the legislature and the DMV as the authority on proper English and mechanics is a pretty weak argument. You have more respect for the legislature than I do I guess.

Well, I called the Dept. of Engine Vehicles, and they said, “Sir, or Madam, you’ll have to ask the Linguistics Dept. of Language Studies at the university. You could go there by engine vehicle. To get there, take the engine way #101, to Engine Carriage Road. At #201, pull in at Steam Motor Drive. Park your engine vehicle next to the Engine Inn. Go into the university, and enroll in the short study course they have in linguistics. Tell them that the Dept. of Engine Vehicles sent you. Good day Sir, or, Madam, or Other.” Study, and inquiry! Man! They didn’t think that I wanted to do any linguistics research and studies, did they?! The nerve of some people!! Yours Truly.

I have always understood that a motor was electric and an engine was combustion of steam. If you really want to know look it up in the dictionary then you would have an educated answer.

After looking in the dictionary and finding out that each word, motor and engine, had different Latin roots, I asked a motorneer about this dichotomy. She said, “Just as there are shades of gray (or, is it grey?), and shades of white, and shades of black, there are shades of meaning in words. The same word can have opposite meanings, similar meanings, or near similar meanings …all at the same time”! She further said that, “A good encyclopedia will enlighten you on how people speak (or, is it TALK?) and some of the reasons they speak (TALK?)that way. Look under “linguistics””. I told her, “I don’t want to learn anything. I just want an answer! Why should I become knowledgeable to know stuff?!” She shook her head, with a pained look on her face, and went back to the plans of an engineway she was designing.

Yes, there is a technical difference. An engine generates motion from its own power, as in a steam engine or diesel engine. A motor is a device that must receive its power from some outside source, typically electricity.

Steam and diesel (and every other type of fuel) engines do receive their power from an outside source. That source is the fuel. It converts the fuel to heat and motion. Same with electric motors, they convert electricity into heat and motion.

To me, the best difference has always been the complexity of the unit. Motors have basically one part that rotates as a whole. Electric motors have the armature/shaft, air and hydraulic motors have the vane/shaft. Engines have multiple parts that move in different directions as a system to provide rotary motion in the end.

Yes it’s and engine, and a motor. Motors provide motive force, or motion. Engines refer to mechanical contrivances of all sorts, some of which do not provide motive force (see: difference engine). Motors are a subset of engines.

Pedants be damned . . . :wink:

Grrr, can’t edit my typo . . . first ‘and’ should be ‘an’