A Cotton Gin (short for cotton engine) is a machine that quickly and easily separates the cotton fibers from the seedpods and the sometimes sticky seeds, a job previously done by workers. These seeds are either used again to grow more cotton or, if badly damaged, are disposed of. It uses a combination of a wire screen and small wire hooks to pull the cotton through the screen, while brushes continuously remove the loose cotton lint to prevent jams. The term "gin" is an abbreviation for engine, and means "machine".
William Swinton Outlines of the Worlds History, Ancient Mediabal and Mondern, with special relation to the history of civilization and the progress of mankind (New York, NY: Ivison, Blakeman and Company, 1874)