The word gadget was "invented," as much as any word is invented, around 1884-85 in New York City. The grand unveiling of the Statue of Liberty was approaching, and Gaget, Gauthier & Cie, the company behind the casting of the monument wanted some PR.

They decided to give the local public a preview, in miniature, of the Statue. Soon, cast scale replicas of Lady Liberty were being sold by the firm, complete with the name of the company stamped on the bottom.

Apparently, the New Yorkers needed to call these models something, and they seized upon the inscription on the thing's underside. "Gaget" was perverted, in the American fashion, to "Gadget," an easier word for the English-accustomed tongue.

Another suggested etymology is that "gadget" is derived from the French words "gâchette" or "gagée." Gâchette is applied to various mechanisms, like those in a gun or a lock. Gagée means, from what I've been told, a tool or instrument. An interesting fact that seems to support the Statue of Liberty link over the gâchette/gagée one is that the word "gadget" is not seen in print until 1886, right around the time of the unveiling of Liberty.

In any case, English seems to get the word from French, one way or another.


Sources:
  • The History Channel
  • http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:uiyRchvfAWkC:pub55.ezboard.com
    /fwordoriginsorgfrm1.showMessage%3FtopicID%
    3D724.topic+origin+gadget+statue+liberty&hl=en

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