Pronounced 'en-jen, engin is a word used in three different languages today, each with a separate etymology.
In Icelandic, the word is an indefinite form of the preposition "enginn" meaning "no one, none, nobody or no". Engin may be either feminine nominative singular or neuter plural. In the latter case it may be nominative or accusative.
In French the word is masculine and has several closely related meanings:
- Any device, contraption or machinery, particularly a complex, dangerous or powerful one.
- A piece of military equipment.
- A piece of heavy machinery.
- (informal) Any object whose name or function is unknown; a thingy; a gizmo.
- (chiefly law) A piece of hunting equipment.
- An artistic gymnastics apparatus.
- (dated) Any tool or apparatus.
The French usage may be traced to both Middle English and Middle French. In modern English, an additional e was added to the end.
In Old French the word engin had two meanings: 1) ruse; trickery; deception and 2) invention; ingenuity; creativity.
From the Old French the word may be traced to the Latin ingenium, meaning an innate or natural quality, natural character; nature 2) disposition, temper, inclination 3) intelligence, natural capacity.
In Turkish it is an adjective meaning "vast" and is also used in that language as both a surname and a given name.
Notable Turkish individuals with this name include the actor Engin Günaydın and the particle physicist Engin Arık. Arık was commissioned to represent her country in the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty held at the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN from 1997 to 2000.
This last bit of trivia is amusing in that it incorporates all three meanings of the word engin.