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I'm wondering what the exact difference between device and appliance may be.

First thoughts would be that it might be based on either size, level of technology, ubiquity, or value.

  • Perhaps a device is smaller than an appliance (hair dryer v. oven)
  • Perhaps a device is more complicated than an appliance (smartphone v. oven)
  • Perhaps a device is still more something of a novelty when compared to an appliance. (Amazon Echo or Google home v. dishwasher).
  • Perhaps a device is a luxury where as an appliance is an essential (Keurig coffee machine v. laundry washing machine.)

What are your thoughts? Do these hold true? Are there ones missing? Would you disagree?

migrated from writing.stackexchange.com Aug 9 at 23:05

This question came from our site for the craft of professional writing, including fiction, non-fiction, technical, scholarly, and commercial writing.

  • @wordsworth Perhaps, but we have the word-choice tag, I'm answering as if this applies to a word-choice in writing. – Amadeus Aug 9 at 20:17
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    Yes, it belongs on English. We do allow questions about word definitions (as in word-choice) here but they need to relate strongly to the writing process in some way, like the heartbeat question does. – Cyn Aug 9 at 20:17
  • @Cyn I agree. How does one move questions from one site to another? Is it a tool only accessible by high-rep users, or a tool only available for mods? – A. Kvåle Aug 9 at 21:04
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    @A.Kvåle It's part of the closing process. You can do this directly by clicking on "close" at the bottom left of the question. Or you can go to the review queue which is part of the menu on the top right of the screen (it only shows up if you have enough rep). It's a lined piece of paper icon with a checkmark. Within the close sequence, choose "off topic." Then choose "this question belongs on another site." The only options there are Writing Meta and English. If you want migration to another site, you'll have to suggest it under "other." Try not to suggest migration unless you're sure. – Cyn Aug 9 at 21:30
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    Voting to close for lack of research. Please, show us what you found out from dictionary definitions, and how you are still stuck. – aparente001 Aug 10 at 7:07
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I'd say an appliance has a very specific function. Wash clothes, make coffee, cooking, keeping things cold, and is usually named after that function. Washing machine, coffee maker, refrigerator. "Stove" would be an exception; they used to be employed for more than cooking, and the name carried over (they were also used as "heaters", keeping a home warm). Likewise an "air conditioner" is an appliance, meant for environmental cooling, but it is difficult to find a name that doesn't imply a refrigerator (even though that is what it is).

Appliance are single purpose, and widely used and understood. Often an appliance will have a very limited job time, they are started and stopped (or stop automatically). Like a coffee maker, or ice cream maker, or washing machine. In a way that is even true of air conditioners and heaters and dehumidifiers, they are just started and stopped automatically, to "correct" the temperature in an environmental space. Similarly for a refrigerator.

Usually, an appliance delivers some kind of convenience, it does a job for you.

A "device" is a more general term, I think all appliances are devices, but the terms are not synonymous. Many devices can be for singular purposes (like a forklift, or ditch digger, or a manufacturer's machine to fill bottles) but we don't call them an "appliance" because we don't expect many people to have them, and don't think of their "job" as a ubiquitous purpose consumers might want done.

Or, it is possible that whatever the device does is not commonly even thought of as a job to be done: A TV is a device, few of us would call it a video appliance. Or call our stereo a music appliance. Likewise a modern phone, or computer (same thing). The things these devices do are not commonly thought of as "jobs" to be done. They aren't seen as providing a convenience.

The universe of "devices" envelops the universe of "appliances" but the line between them can be ambiguous.

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    I'll just slide this in before it gets kicked over to the other site. I think the "widely used and understood" bit gets to the core of the etymology here. A device has been devised (to solve some problem), suggesting something more "ingenious" and less mundane. An appliance is simply applied to get some result, suggesting something more utilitarian. – Thing-um-a-jig Aug 9 at 20:28
  • @Thing-um-a-jig A good distinction. Unless I VTC a question myself, or suggest it be transfered, I don't eer assume the "election" is over until it is over. a few votes to close or notes that it needs to be transferred don't make it a fact in my book. If it gets enough votes to close, or gets transferred, okay. Until then, it is fair game, and may never get closed or transferred. – Amadeus Aug 9 at 20:35

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