Definition of automaton in English:


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nounplural noun automata/-tə/ , plural noun automatons

  • 1A moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.

    ‘a collection of 19th century French automata: acrobats, clowns, and musicians’
    • ‘The earliest ‘robots’ were the fixed-base mechanical automatons of the 18th century.’
    • ‘The story went that Descartes was so struck with grief that he created an automaton, a mechanical doll, built exactly identical to his dead daughter.’
    • ‘With 842 lots, the sale will be in two parts: fine toys, biscuit tins and toy soldiers next Tuesday; and mechanical music, automata, dolls and doll's houses on October 30.’
    • ‘He manages to create a believable world of automatons and clockwork mechanisms against a backdrop of the real world.’
    • ‘The camera pans right to left, over the mechanical cymbals, et cetera, on to the automaton playing the drums.’
    • ‘And in one sense there's nothing new about them - humanoid automata have captured the popular imagination for centuries.’
    • ‘Paris became a center for high-quality hand-crafted automata and porcelain dolls in the 19th century.’
    • ‘In the late 1700s, a performer-cum-scientist in the court of Maria Theresa displayed a wooden automaton seated at a gear-filled cabinet.’
    • ‘Originally, the challenge was to design an automaton that could walk unassisted.’
    • ‘This reproduction does not simulate the jerky movements of a sci-fi automaton, however, but the strange instruments of a science fiction soundtrack.’
    1. 1.1A machine that performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions, especially one capable of a range of programmed responses to different circumstances.
      ‘sophisticated automatons continue to run factory assembly lines’
      • ‘In computer science, an automaton is an abstract machine that can serve as a model of computation.’
      • ‘We know how to build toy thinking machines, automatons, but that's not the same thing.’
      • ‘Already in the seventeenth century the possibility was widely discussed that animals could be understood as machines or automata.’
      • ‘Non-human animals have only bodies and are essentially automata or biological robots which behave according to their internal biological/mechanical makeup.’
      • ‘Mathematician Alan M. Turing was one of the first to propose the idea of a finite automaton as a universal mathematics machine.’
      robot, automaton, android, mechanoid
    2. 1.2Used in similes and comparisons to refer to a person who seems to act in a mechanical or unemotional way.
      ‘she went about her preparations like an automaton’
      • ‘They are not the unemotional automatons of science fiction myth.’
      • ‘They are thinking human beings not automatons.’
      • ‘I notice that the checkout girls in the supermarket look for eye contact with every customer, as they too need to be seen and accepted as human beings, not automatons.’
      • ‘It created highly efficient industry, with human beings turned into automata.’
      • ‘For one thing, human beings do not experience themselves as being clockwork automata.’
      • ‘It seems to escape most people that we docs are actually human beings too, not automatons.’
      • ‘The 21st century demands free-thinkers, not an endless parade of automatons churned out from a formulaic educational assembly line.’
      • ‘He goes through the mechanics of putting in the milk concentrate powder like an automaton, taking insane amounts of care not to spill a single drop of the powder from the bottles.’
      • ‘It needs automatons, cogs who fit neatly in the machine.’
      • ‘No longer were automata performing like humans; humans were performing like automata.’
      • ‘The dancers' expressions did not change on one occasion - they came across as automatons performing precisely as prescribed, and many will find that is not very watchable.’
      • ‘Instead, they seem to be purely creatures of the plot, automatons carrying out their instructions in order to keep the rest of the machinery moving.’
      • ‘A world of automata - of creatures that worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating.’
      • ‘Technology is here to stay, we need to use it to our advantage, bearing in mind at all times that the athlete is a human being and not a machine or an automaton.’



/ôˈtämədən/ /ɔˈtɑmədən/ /ôˈtäməˌtän/ /ɔˈtɑməˌtɑn/


Early 17th century via Latin from Greek, neuter of automatos ‘acting of itself’, from autos ‘self’.