An elevator (or lift in the Commonwealth excluding Canada ) is a type of vertical transport equipment that efficiently moves people or goods between floors (levels, decks ) of a building, vessel or other structures. Elevators are generally powered by electric motors that either drive traction cables or counterweight systems like a hoist , or pump hydraulic fluid to raise a cylindrical piston like a jack . In agriculture and manufacturing, an elevator is any type of conveyor device used to lift materials in a continuous stream into bins or silos. Several types exist, such as the chain and bucket bucket elevator , grain auger screw conveyor using the principle of Archimedes' screw , or the chain and paddles/forks of hay elevators . Languages other than English may have loanwords based on either elevator (e.g., Korean and Japanese ) or lift (e.g., Russian and Cantonese ).