I am having an argument with my cousin after I called a tractor a "device." He argues that tractors are machines, but never "devices."
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The notion that one cannot call a tractor a “device” is mistaken, albeit not misguided. That is, tractors are usually called tractors instead of devices. (Note, a common sense of device is “Any piece of equipment made for a particular purpose, especially a mechanical or electrical one”.)
Historically, some agricultural equipment has been referred to by the term device. Here is a portion of the OED1 (1897) entry for device, with two of the example sentences:
7. ... an invention, contrivance ; esp. a mechanical contrivance (usually of a simple character) for some particular purpose. ... 1577: the devise was, a lowe kinde of Carre with a couple of wheeles, and the Front armed with sharpe Syckles, which forced by the beast through the Corne, did cut downe al before it. ... 1874: The devices for baling cut hay.
Given that definition, it is not a great word for tractor, which is a very complex and adaptable machine, capable of performing all kinds of tasks.
According to Oxford Dictionary:
A device is:
a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose,
especially a piece of mechanical or electronic equipment
A machine is:
an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts,
each with a definite function and together performing
Technically a tractor could be either, by these definitions. However common use refers to device as a smaller item (something that can be held in your hand as it is used). I usually imagine device as something small and easily portable, and a machine as a larger item.
A tractor is a tool that can be used. But a device is a tool that is actually used. The word 'devise' assumes use, but machine does not. A pencil is a tool but it is not actually a device until it is used, then it is a device. A machine is a machine only, and not a device, if it is not used. But if it is used, it is a device. A machine is a machine whether it is used or not.