I attended an English class by a Canadian teacher and he told us that nobody uses the word "weighing machine" to describe a machine that weigh the weight of an object. However, after some googling I did find that both Cambridge Dictionary and Collin's Dictionary recorded such word.

Is the usage of "weighing machine" instead of "scale" acceptable? Or such usage is uncommon in Canada?

  • we are lazy, why say "weighing scale(s)/weighing machine", when "scales(s)" will do? Jan 19 at 16:45
  • 2
    Well, dictionaries seem to say 'mainly British', though I'm sure 'scales' is used as often, if not more often, in the UK. Jan 19 at 17:05

Weighing machine is perfectly acceptable. If you insert weighing machine into your favourite search engine and then ask it to do an image search you will pictures of a whole array of devices which the vendors label weighing machine. Interestingly many of them are also labelled scales. In everyday use the shorter term scales is often preferred though. I would refer to kitchen scales or bathroom scales whatever the manufacturer had labelled them.

In my youth in the UK railway stations and other public places often had large machines, as tall as a human, called weighing machines. You stepped onto a platform in front of the machine, inserted a small value coin and it gave you your weight. Some of them even spoke your weight. I think the term weighing machine was almost obligatory for them.


UK perspective here.

A domestic device for weighing quantities of cooking ingredients, or a person's body mass, is usually called "a scales". Yes that's right, not "scale".

A device used for measuring small quantities with precision in a scientific (usually chemical) laboratory is called a "balance".

If any of these devices has an electronic display of the weight, it has the word "electronic" in front of it.

Hence you have "a scales" in the kitchen, whose technology may either be based on putting known weights in one pan and the unknown in the other (technically known as a "balance"), or on the compressibility / extensibility of a spring, and a pointer which indicates on a "scale" the value. Both are a "scales".

Then to confuse you even further, a simple device consisting of a spring which holds an item to be weighed underneath it, whose technology consists of stretching a spring rather than compressing it (commonly seen in schools, in the science lab) is referred to as a "spring balance".

Hope this helps.

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