Anyone who has been to business school - either graduate or undergraduate - has heard this line many times before:
"Lets say you own a factory that produces, oh, I don't know, it produces widgets..."
Back in the day, widgets were the stuff of imaginations in the minds of countless business professors, a handy imaginary product, the production of which was most educational to students of business. Widgets were endlessly marketed and endlessly analyzed, and I remember sitting in class thinking, "I absolutely must look up the etymology of the word because I cannot possibly fathom where it came from."
Going online to search for the word's etymology, the all-knowing Wikipedia offers this:
The widget is a placeholder for an object, or more specifically, a mechanical or other manufactured device.
Apparently, the word goes back to 1924 and may be a derivation of the word gadget.
A Princeton University website offers synonyms for widget:
doodad, gizmo, thingamabob, whatchamacallit are my top favorites.
Nowadays, the term is used to describe a "mini application" used online, like the LIKE button on Facebook. All of those little doodads and thingamabobs that enhance your online experience are known as widgets.
It's interesting how the word went from referring to something unspecified, to something actually very specific and technical.
I guess business school professors now need to find some other word to describe an imaginary object, and business school students will probably spend much of their time utilizing little widgets.