Word of the Day



a vehicle used on farms, for example to pull machines

Origin and usage

The word tractor comes from the Latin word ‘trahere’ meaning ‘to pull’. The earliest recorded uses of the word come from the mid- to late-19th century when engines and vehicles designed to pull farming tools and wagons were being developed. They were initially referred to as traction engines and then as tractors.


Tractors are a type of vehicle that is often used on farms or other places that require heavy machinery, such as construction sites. This is because they can provide high torque – energy derived through rotation, at a slow speed. The first tractors were primarily used to till fields but, through technological advances, they have come to be used for a much broader range of purposes. Other appliances are often dragged behind the tractor and may also be powered by the tractor’s motor.

In most parts of the world, the word tractor refers specifically to the type of machinery used on a farm. However, in North America, the word tractor is also commonly used to refer to the engine component of a large transport truck, as well as farming equipment. Richard Trevithick is credited with the invention of the first semi-portable steam engine used on a farm, then called a barn engine. Similarly, William Tuxford is thought to be the inventor of the first wholly portable version that would later be developed into what we would recognize as a tractor.


“We could love that tractor then as we have loved this land when it was ours. But the tractor does two things – it turns the land and turns us off the land.”

(John Steinbeck)


cultivator, plough

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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