Motor vs. Engine

We’re having a little friendly disagreement among some friends. Some say that you can refer to a car’s power plant as the “motor”, others insist that it is the “engine”. I’m in the “engine” camp. Motors are little things that are attached to engine that run your wiper blades, and automatic windows.

IS there a right or wrong answer here?

You’d better contact BMW and have them change their name to BEW…

More to the point, you’re wrong, according to Merriam-Webster:
1: one that imparts motion; specifically : prime mover
2: any of various power units that develop energy or impart motion: as
a : a small compact engine
b : internal combustion engine; especially : a gasoline engine
c : a rotating machine that transforms electrical energy into mechanical energy
3: motor vehicle; especially : automobile

That disagreement has been around forever. To me, it doesn’t make any difference.

The word “motorcycle” would have to be revamped and so would the short phrase “motor officers” which often refers to the police officers who ride them.

Enginecycle and engine officers doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

In slang form, even Harley Davidson is often referred to as The Motor Company.

Tht term “crate motor” is also widely used by many manufacturers; denoting a new, never rebuilt engine.

I was pondering this exact thought once, while in line at the Department of Engine Vehicles, waiting to get my enginecycle registered…

Really, language is what it is, not what some egghead PhD wishes it was. Also, most of the objections I’ve repeatedly heard to calling an internal combustion powerplant a “motor” come from those with engineering backgrounds.

Thus, while I concede there’s probably a form of engineering jargon in which “motor” is an electric generator of motive force, in standard American english, there is no such distinction.

In many languages there is only one word for motor and engine; “moteur” in French, for instance.

The weaving industry and cotton milling created the word engine, and steam engine, while the development of the internal combustion engine created the word motor.

When electricity became a source of power, electric motors were called “motors”.

As meanjoe says, who really cares, the words can be used interchangeably for a car engine, just like “transmission” (US) and “gearbox” (English) are used interchangeably.

In electric power generation, some say “generator” while others say “dynamo”.

If a motor hotel is called a motel what would an engine hotel be called?

I think a lot of FoMoCo fans might have to change all the logos to read FoEnCo. Chrysler cars would have stickers that said Enpar.

As a youngster I was taught that a motor is electric and an engine runs on fuel. Apparently that was incorrect.

Can’t we discuss something important, like which tire company makes the prettiest tread patterns?

A motor uses an existing energy source like electricity to produce work. An engine converts raw fuel into work…Steam Engines, Diesel Engines, Gasoline Engines…Electric Motors…You never hear the term Electric Engine…

When you say gasoline motor, technically that’s incorrect. But it has become common usage and is acceptable to use the word “motor” in that manner…

It kind of drives me nuts too just like manhole covers that are put back on with the painted stripes going the wrong way. To me its an electric motor and a gas and steam engine. When someone calls an engine a motor, I tend to think a little less of their expertise. Then again I guess it all started getting confused with General Motors and Ford Motor. I guess just like calling a tissue a Kleenex and a copy a Xerox. Just ain’t right in my view.

To an engineer I suppose after thinking about it, anything that converts energy into an output is maybe a motor to them. Just like a machine to an engineer is a simple device and not what I would consider a machine. Not being an engineer and married to an English teacher, it drives me a little nuts.

On a similar note:
Transaxle = Front wheel drive
Transmission = Rear wheel drive
Often the term “transmission” is used (incorrectly) to refer to both. Or am I wrong?

Transmission = gear changing device
Transaxle = Transmission + Differential (can be at either end of the car)

I guess we know who the Anal Retentive ones are here.

Another ‘nugget’ of wisdom from keith…

I do in fact have customers and mechanics who ask for a price on the ‘’ ENGINE MOTOR ‘’.
This tells me exactly what they want
not a fan motor, vacuum motor, wiper motor, blend door motor, window motor, trunk latch motor, …
But the engine.
since both terms are thrown about willy-nilly it sometimes helps when anyone uses too much terminology . Instead of splitting hairs over what it’s really called we simply continue the conversation as normal and everyone is happy.

Like struts and shocks.
Struts ARE the shock absorbing unit, period.

So when someone walks in and wants a fan engine? Of course the customer is always right. On the other hand I have found the proper term for a part in the factory manual, only to have a parts guy scratch his head not knowing what it was and calling it something else.

If motor and engine are interchangeable, then we can have a “search motor” as well as a “search engine” on the internet.
I remember the 1941 Buick had an “engine turned” dash panel. I guess we could call it a “motor turned” dash panel. It could also be an outboard engine as well as an outboard motor.
We can also say “happy engining” as well “happy motoring”.

Suffice to say for those of you who would like a neat packaged answer to motor vs engine, there is none. This is after all, the English language with it’s “i” before “e” except after c or when… exceptions and this is just one of them. It’s a matter of relativism and which one you use is the one you see used the most by whom ever uses it first.

Anyone who tries to define when each should be is used, is just “make’n it up”.

Without a doubt, Michelin makes the prettiest tread patterns !

The English language is constantly changing. Words will change meanings over time. Just because the definition of Motor was “A machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy”…doesn’t mean it will always and forever have that definition.

Did you know that the word Computer has been around for several hundred years. Back before the invention of the Computer…the term Computer was - “Someone who computes”… We call them accountants today. That’s a far cry from meaning everyone uses for Computer today.

The meanings of words change over times…Get use to it.

So a gasoline engine is a “common law” motor, @Caddyman.

A rose by any other name…

I dunno, my BIL was an accountant before we had computers. Sure that wasn’t computOR or computee? Like as in Motgagor or mortgagee? Or is it “use to” or “used to” or “yusto”. I think we should try and fight some of these trends anyway.

Doesn’t anyone else have a problem with manhole or personhole covers being put back on with the stripe going the wrong way? I mean it really is no more work to put them on right (correct) in the first place. To me its just sloppy work. Its not like you actually have to be able to read or anything. The city engineer has been bound and determined stripe every street in town with double yellow lines, then as soon as they’re done, pull the personhole covers and put them back on crooked. That paint is about $50 a gallon and doesn’t go very far. I’m refraining from calling him though but I still think its sloppy work and unnecessary spending.