gadget, appliance, device

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Senior Member
German / Switzerland

My students asked me about the difference between gadget, appliance and device.
As far as I know, every gadget and appliance is also a device. An appliance is usually electrical and used in the house.

Does anybody have any helpful comments on the three words?
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    I generally use "appliance" for everyday domestic machines like clothes washers, etc. "Gadget" is an informal word I use to describe many different devices, often ones that I'm unfamiliar with or wish to disparage slightly. For some reason, I tend to use "gadget" for small, complicated things. "Device" is the most neutral of these terms to me, and it's a word I would use for almost any machine or piece of electronic equipment. "Device" sounds pretty formal to me, and I generally use it in formal contexts.


    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Device is by far the most versatile of these words and can be anything from a foot massager to a literary plot twist.
    That said, I wouldn't use 'device' much for objects whose name and function I, and most people, was familiar with, e.g. a washing-machine. A washing-machine is definitely an appliance in my book (and yours, apparently).

    A gadget is something not familiar to everyone and whose usefulness is suspect. It's often used for newfangled technology which, while impressive looking, is superfluous.
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