Are the Latin word "machina" (device) and the German word "machen" (to make) related?

There is no obvious etymology for the Latin word "machina". 'ch' shouldn't occur in native Latin words except in front of 'r' ("pulchra"), and 'ch' is usually a sign that the word comes from Greek. However, a quick search doesn't show that there was a Greek word such as *μαχινη. The German 'ch', as far as I see, usually corresponds to Latin /k/ (as in "sechs"-"sex"). So, there would need to be either unexpected sound changes or borrowing from some substrate language.

  • Iirc pulcher is actually pulcer from an etymological point of view
    – user14544
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 17:19
  • 3
    Note that German ch is very often the result of the High German sound shift k -> ch, and so it is here. So this question is equivalent to asking if "machine" and "make" are related in English. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


Indeed, māchina is a borrowing from Greek, which is why it has the aspirated consonant. It seems to come from μᾱχᾰνᾱ́, borrowed early enough that the short vowel in the middle syllable got reduced (a well-attested process in Latin; compare jaciō vs traiciō).

The Attic form is μηχᾰνή, due to a separate process that turned long alpha to eta in most contexts (one of the distinctive features of the Attic and Ionic dialects).

I'm not sure if μᾱχᾰνᾱ́ is directly attested, but given that Latin vowel reduction and Attic etacism are very well-understood phenomena, it's very likely that it existed. Its etymology is unknown, but might be related to "might" (German Macht—surprisingly enough, not cognate with machen). Beekes, of course, claims it's Pre-Greek.

  • Hidden info in this answer: "machine" is related to "mechanic." Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 18:43
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    μαχανά is attested in Doric lyric (and maybe prose, not sure) and in Attic choral odes, e.g. Aesch. Seven against Thebes 131 ἰχθυβόλῳ μαχανᾷ.
    – TKR
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 19:45

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