While I was reading La révolution industrielle au Moyen Âge (The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages) by Jean Gimpel, I’ve read:

In the old texts, James of Saint George is called the machoun, or sometimes machinator, sometimes also ingeniator.

(p.114 of the French edition)

And later:

The expression ingeniator was generally reserved for architects who specialized in building military installations.

(p. 115, ibid.)

Machoun seems to be old French as I’ve found the expression “Mestre Jakes de Seint Jorge le Machoun”.
Traupman translates engineer by machinator. It seems that in most languages the term for engineer derives from French ingénieur which derives from Latin ingeniator (En. engineer, Ge. Ingenieur, Sp. ingeniero, It. ingegnere…).

Do you know other Latin words for engineer? When possible, providing an history of the use of those words would be perfect.

  • 1
    My dictionary suggests ingeniarius, but I think it was coined by analogy to the words in other languages.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:55

2 Answers 2


Besides machinator, I found two words for engineer in classical Latin that are primarily directed towards the devising of buildings and fortifications.

  • aedificator A builder, derived from aedes (house, temple)

  • munitor An engineer of fortifications, derived from moenia (walls).

An architectus, besides being an architect, could also represent someone who actually is making something as a master-builder.

I still think machinator covers the meaning of a modern engineer best, because it describes a maker and inventor of machines, for example weaponry:

inventor ac machinator bellicorum tormentorum (Liv. 24, 34)

Or stages:

machinatores, qui pegmata per se surgentia excogitant (Sen. Ep. 88, 19)

As you can see in the first example, inventor can also be used for someone who invents something physical.


Actually, the Vatican dictionary for recent and new words uses:

doctor machinarius

It can be found here, as a translation from the Italian word ingegnere.

  • I don’t think it is a perfect translation insofer as an engineer doesn’t necessarly have a phD.
    – Luc
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 0:24
  • Machinarius is what I was taught, but I can't recall the published source. It seems quite apt to me, with or without the doctor.
    – Figulus
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 6:31

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