The word "computer"
Over the years there have been several slightly different meanings to the word computer, and several different words for the thing we now usually call a computer.
For instance "computer" was once commonly used to mean a person employed to do arithmetic calculations, with or without mechanical aids. According to the Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, the word came into use in English in 1646 as a word for a "person who computes" and then by 1897 also for a mechanical calculating machine. During World War II it referred to U.S. and British servicewomen whose job it was to calculate the trajectories of large artillery shells with such machines.
Charles Babbage designed some of the first computing machines, including the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. Due to technological problems the Difference Engine was not completed in his lifetime, but a working model based on his drawings was constructed for the Science Museum in London in 1993. The Analytical Engine was never completed at all.
Various simple mechanical devices such as the slide rule and abacus have also been called computers. In some cases they were referred to as "analog computers", as they represented numbers by continuous physical quantities rather than by discrete binary digits. What are now called simply "computers" were once commonly called "digital computers" to distinguish them from these other devices (which are still used in the field of analog signal processing, for example).
In thinking of other words for the computer, it is worth noting that in other languages the word chosen does not always have the same literal meaning as the English language word. In French for example, the word is ordinateur, which means approximately "organizer", or "sorting machine". The Spanish word is ordenador , with the same meaning, although in some countries they use the anglicism computadora.
In Portuguese, it assumes the form computador from the verb computar, which means "to compute", "to calculate". In Italian, computers are usually referred to with the anglicism computer, but there is also the term calcolatore, calculator — emphasizing its computational uses over logical ones like sorting — and elaboratore, elaborator. In Swedish, a computer is called dator from "data". At least in the 1950s, they were called matematikmaskin ("mathematics machine"). In Finnish computer is called tietokone which means "information machine". The Icelandic language's name for a computer is more poetic, their word tölva, a portmanteau meaning "number prophetess". In Chinese, a computer is called 电脑 (diànnǎo) or an "electric brain". In English, other words and phrases have been used, such as "data processing machine".