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I recently saw the etymology of the word technology and it comes from Greek thchni meaning art and logos which means word, reasoning, and stuff like that. So I reckon technology means doing something such that people consider it as a work of art. On the other hand, we sometimes see state-of-the-art which is used as adjective, or adverb in some contexts.

My question is, are they equal in meaning? Can we use them interchangeably? Is state-of-the-art a literal translation of technology?

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3 Answers 3

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No it isn't a translation, but there are connections.

The crucial thing to realise is that "art" (and its equivalents in Greek and Latin) have had a broad range of meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 12 primary meanings for the noun (some of them further subdivided). It starts off meaning "skill", and then comes to denote different fields in which one might apply skill.

But the modern distinction between "art" as in fine arts and "technology" would have been barely intelligible to the classical Greeks.

I think "state of the art" uses "art" in a somewhat old-fashioned way, to mean a field of endeavour and creation, not necessarily artistic in the way we usually understand that word today.

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+1 @Coling. Great explanation. I agree with you. I think, old Greeks meant technology to be something related to high skills, to such level that it amazed everybody. Just like modern art that amazes people. –  Saeed Neamati Jul 22 '11 at 12:31
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state-of-the-art means it is the latest and sophisticated. We may say like "The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art machines."

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Isn't the word sophisticated redundant here? To me, "state-of-the-art" means "current" state of the particular field, which in other words means "up to date." –  Jaywalker Jul 25 '11 at 14:16
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No.

State-of-the-art means: "the latest and most sophisticated or advanced stage of a technology, art, or science."

So where state-of-the-art relates to technology, it is a subset; therefore they are not synonyms.

In case you're not sure of the word technology, it means: "the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science."

As to what technology means in Greek, Etymonline.com can tell us that:

technology
1610s, "discourse or treatise on an art or the arts," from Gk. tekhnologia "systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique," originally referring to grammar, from tekhno- (see techno-) + -logia (see -logy). The meaning "science of the mechanical and industrial arts" is first recorded 1859. High technology attested from 1964; short form high-tech is from 1972.

Further discourse from me on the etymological nuances of the words would be unnecessary, since Colin Fine has now provided an excellent few paragraphs on the subject.

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Dear @drm65, you said technical means in your definition of technology. Taking an etymological approach for finding meaning, can't we claim that technical means artful? –  Saeed Neamati Jul 22 '11 at 12:12
    
Not if the dictionary and common usage define it differently. The etymological approach, while eye-opening, does not necessarily lead one to the current accepted meaning of a word. –  Daniel Jul 22 '11 at 12:20
    
As a side note: artful means sly, crafty, and cunning. So don't use it to relate to art. –  Daniel Jul 22 '11 at 12:29
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