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Further to today's my question about the words, 'off-the-shelf' used in Time Magazine's feature story titled 'The Best 50 Invention of The Year' (Nov. 11th 2010 Issue), I found the following sentence in the same article:

'One analyst says the iPad is the fastest selling non-phone gizmo in consumer electronics history.'

I understand there is difference of meaning between device and gizmo / gadget and gimmick as a group. Are there great difference of meaning and usage among the words, gizmo, gadget and gimmick?

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You might like to correct the spelling of "differences" in your title. –  RedGrittyBrick Jan 9 '11 at 11:14
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

A gizmo is

a gadget, especially one whose name the speaker cannot recall.

Synonyms might be "thingamajig" or "whatsit" (colloquially).

A gadget is

a small mechanical device or tool, especially one that is ingenious or novel.

Smallness is one of the defining characteristics, so a new type of earth-moving equipment is not likely to be called a gadget, however ingenious or novel it may be, but a pen that doubles as a voice recorder certainly would be.

A gimmick is merely a trick, usually used to attract attention or publicity. A gimmick does not have to be a mechanical device. This is the "black sheep" in your list.

Device is a bit broader:

1 a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, esp. a mechanical or electronic contrivance : a measuring device. • an explosive contrivance; a bomb : an incendiary device. • archaic the design or look of something : works of strange device.

2 a plan, scheme, or trick with a particular aim : "writing a public letter is a traditional device for signaling dissent." • a turn of phrase intended to produce a particular effect in speech or a literary work : a rhetorical device.

3 a drawing or design : the decorative device on the invitations. • an emblematic or heraldic design : their shields bear the device of the Blazing Sun.

(Above definition taken from Webster's.)

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Gizmo and gadget are interchangeable. Gimmick has a greater implication of uselessness.

Any of the three could be used to describe a feature of a product. The first two could also be used to describe the whole product. A gimmick could be an intangible or non-functional feature, Gizmo and gadget are more likely to refer to something tangible with an identifiable function of some sort.

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Thank you for your correction. I admit I'm terrible speller. Yoichi –  Yoichi Oishi Jan 9 '11 at 11:26
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