A widget is a general term used when referencing a small gadget or mechanical device that has an unknown or unspecified name. So, a WordPress widget is the term used to describe a small area on a website that is used for a specific function.
What that means in plain English, is that:
- A widget area is like a container for different types of content, and
- A widget is a smaller container for a specific type of content inside the big container
Widgets were originally designed to provide a simple and easy way to give more control to the website owner over the design and content, and today they are used to add specific types of content and features to a site.