I already started quite a fruitful discussion about the term methodology over here, but today's topic is the term technology. Whenever words end in -logy, my brain links them to the field of epistemology, because it does not primarily care about the thing itself, but more about the logic behind the thing.

Wikipedia gives a good explanation how the meaning of the word technology changed in the last 200 years, and mentions the German term Technik which does not have an English equivalent, at least in the form where Technik stands for the material item and not the method of doing things to create the item. Is there a more correct term than technologies for grouping items that require knowledge of techniques (technology) to be created?

E.g., what would be a more correct term to use instead of technologies in the following sentence?

The Internet, planes, cars and mobile phones are technologies that shaped the 20/21st century.

  • 1
    None other come to mind. Technological advances of the Internet, planes, cars and mobile phones shaped the 20th and 21st centuries
    – mplungjan
    Dec 10, 2013 at 13:09
  • 4
    In the context of that sentence you could use "inventions" or "innovations". I think "technologies" is possibly the best fit though. Dec 10, 2013 at 13:55
  • The best word is "technology", because it's got about 200 years of precedence with that meaning. Any other word would not be understood as well. A word's etymology is not its meaning -- the meaning comes from how it's used.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 23, 2015 at 4:30

6 Answers 6


"Artifacts" connotes the aspect of being made by people, which seems closest to me to what "technologies" connotes, while "invention" (as Henry Wilson also suggests) connotes the creation moment and perhaps the creator.

  • 1
    Guys, come on, "artifacts" sounds hideous here. Come on. Inventions or developments or technologies are fine if (for some reason) you like cluttering your writing with completely pointless clauses. "Artifacts" sounds like you're trying to write a sci-fi novel, it's a non-starter in the sentence at hand.
    – Fattie
    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:39
  • The poster didn't ask for writing advice. He or she asked for a synonym. Jun 8, 2014 at 18:35
  • The OP asked for a synonym that was more correct. There isn't one, and anyway the internet is no more an artifact than language is. It's a huge collection of scientific, technical, mathematical and engineering knowledge most correctly referred to in English as a technology.
    – Useless
    Apr 24, 2015 at 16:18

I would try with developments, as in

The Internet, planes, cars and mobile phones are developments that shaped the 20/21st century.

It matches the first and second senses (i.e. count noun) given here.


Do what Winston Churchill would have done:

"The internet, planes, cars and mobile phones shaped the 20th century."

Always, when you write: try to remove crap.


"Artifact" is probably the correct term for (almost) anything constructed by human beings, "techniques" referring to at least some of those methods that are used to construct them.

Just a note: the -logy ending should not be associated with epistemology (nor does epistemology concern itself with "the logic behind things" as such). Rather, the -logy ending concerns scientific fields, generally speaking, and is ultimately derived from the Greek -logia which should look suspiciously familiar to "λογος" (logos) to you. Both have to do with "word" or "speech". Thus "biologia" (biology) has to do with the "speaking" about biology, "geologia" (geology), the "speaking about the earth, etc. Thus, technology would come from "tekhnelogia" meaning the "speaking" (or study) of arts, techniques, etc. Understood this way, the way we use the word "technology" is wrong (a misnomer) or imprecise. Of course, it's the the only word that has been used in an etymologically incorrect way. "Methodology" is used to describe a collection of methods used. "Philosophy" is used to describe mission statements. Such is life.

  • Can you edit to fix that wall of text?
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:56



an instance of notable progress in the development of knowledge, technology, or skill

Synonyms advancement, breakthrough, enhancement, improvement, refinement

The Internet, planes, cars and mobile phones are advances that shaped the 20/21st century.

engineering achievement

Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century


How many of the 20th century's greatest engineering achievements will you use today? A car? Computer? Telephone? Explore our list of the top 20 achievements and learn how engineering shaped a century and changed the world.

  1. Electrification
  2. Automobile
  3. Airplane
  4. Water Supply and Distribution
  5. Electronics
  6. Radio and Television
  7. Agricultural Mechanization
  8. Computers
  9. Telephone
  10. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  11. Highways
  12. Spacecraft
  13. Internet
  14. Imaging
  15. Household Appliances
  16. Health Technologies
  17. Petroleum and Petrochemical Technologies
  18. Laser and Fiber Optics
  19. Nuclear Technologies
  20. High-performance Materials

The Internet, planes, cars and mobile phones are engineering achievements that shaped the 20/21st century.


Is there a more correct term than technologies for grouping items that require knowledge of techniques (technology) to be created?

No, in English they're called technologies.

Any recent dictionary should make this clear (even if it also shows the original meaning).

eg. the free dictionary:

n. pl. tech·nol·o·gies

  1. a. The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives.

    b. The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective.

  2. Electronic or digital products and systems considered as a group: a store specializing in office technology.
  3. Anthropology The body of knowledge available to a society that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials.

or Merriam-Webster:

  1. a : the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area : engineering 2 medical technology

    b : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge a car's fuel-saving technology

2 : a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge new technologies for information storage

3 : the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor educational technology

etc. etc. etc.

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