The Origin and Meaning of the Word “Engineer”

The word “engineer” and the word “engine” share a root with many other words.


The Origin of the Word

The origin of the word is Latin.

Latin was spoken in Rome. Rome was an ancient and powerful civilisation which had a tremendous influence on the world and through language it still exerts a major influence on our thinking because it gave us so many words and remember:

Words are ideas

The Original Idea is Genius

Nowadays “a genius” is “a very intelligent person”.

The original meaning of “genius” was kind of like “spirit”.

Local Shrines

“Genius loci” meant “the spirit of the place” in Latin. It was the guardian spirit and there were shrines to local protective spirits in houses, at crossroads, in temples, by streams and trees etc. The same kind of shrines to local spirits still exist in many parts of Asia for example Thailand and Japan.

People and Families and Functions

Each person and family and tribe had a specific “genius” or “protective spirit”. Important functions like breastfeeding and weaving and cooking had a genius.

The word for “tribe” or “family” or “clan” was “gens” and it too had a “protective spirit” or “genius”.

Latin Words in English

These Roman (Latin) words “gens” and “genius” have been extended over time to give many words in other Latin languages.

English was influenced by Latin and thus we have words like


Military Engines and Engineers

The word “engine” contains the syllable “gin” which is also derived from the root “gen”. An engine was originally a war machine like a giant catapult or a siege engine. Later other types of machines were developed and the idea of “an engineer” as “a person who developed engines” was developed.

Modern armies still have an Engineers’ Corps.

Modern Engineering

Within the modern field of engineering there is a range of different areas or types of engineering. Look at these:

civil engineering – structural engineering
mechanical engineering
mining engineering
chemical engineering
electrical engineering
electronic engineering
industrial engineering
production engineering

Questions for Engineers

Are you an engineer?

Which field do you work in?

Tell us about your job.

What do you design and build?

Links to More Lessons

The Family and Relationships Page

Vocabulary is the Key

A Field is an Area

Tell us about your job

The Building Game

Leave A Comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.