Is an outboard an engine or a motor?

When it comes to the terminology used in boating, one of the most common points of confusion is whether to refer to an outboard as an engine or a motor.

To put it simply, an outboard is an engine, but many people tend to use the terms engine and motor interchangeably. However, there are some technical differences between the two terms that could help you understand the distinction better.

An engine is a machine that converts fuel into mechanical energy. This type of energy is typically used to power other machines such as boats, cars, trucks, and even airplanes. Therefore, an internal combustion engine used to power a boat would be referred to as an outboard engine, in the case of an outboard motor.

On the other hand, a motor is a device that converts electrical or some other form of energy into mechanical energy. For example, an electric motor can use electrical energy to turn the propeller of a boat. However, it is not often you’ll hear the term ‘outboard motor’.

So, if an outboard converts gasoline into mechanical energy, why is it not referred to as an outboard motor?

The reason is that the term “outboard motor” was used historically to differentiate between inboard and outboard engines. “Motor” was used to refer to inboard engines, while “engine” was used to refer to outboard engines. Inboard engines are typically larger, more complex, and often require more maintenance compared to outboards.

The term “outboard motor” became a colloquial term over the years, leading to many people using the terms “motor” and “engine” interchangeably. But, in technical terms, an outboard is an engine and functions just like any other internal combustion engine.

Whether you refer to it as an outboard motor or engine, it is safe to say that it plays a vital role in powering your boat. Understanding the technical difference might not seem like a big deal, but it can help you better understand the different types of engines and motors available for boats. It is also important to note that the outboard you choose will depend on your boat’s size and your boating needs.

Have something to add or correct? Please let us know by clicking here.
* See disclaimer in the footer of the site for use of this content.

Related Questions


Latest Posts

Don't Miss

Our Newsletter

Get the latest boating tips, fishing resources and featured products in your email from!