- engine c.1300, "mechanical device," also "skill, craft," from O.Fr. engin "skill, cleverness," also "trick, deceit, stratagem; war machine" (12c.), from L. ingenium "inborn qualities, talent" (see INGENIOUS (Cf. ingenious)). At first meaning a trick or device, or any machine (especially military); sense of "device that converts energy to mechanical power" is 18c., especially of steam engines.
Etymology dictionary. 2014.