Definition of automaton in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ɔːˈtɒmət(ə)n/

noun (plural automata /ɔːˈtɒmətə/ or automatons)

1A moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being: a collection of 19th century French automata: acrobats, clowns, and musicians
More example sentences
  • 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.
1.1A machine which performs a range of functions according to a predetermined set of coded instructions: sophisticated automatons continue to run factory assembly lines
More example sentences
  • 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.
1.2Used in similes and comparisons to refer to a person who seems to act in a mechanical or unemotional way: like an automaton, she walked to the door
More example sentences
  • 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.


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

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: au¦toma|ton

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.