Definition of automaton in English:



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

    ‘a collection of 19th century French automata: acrobats, clowns, and musicians’
    • ‘This reproduction does not simulate the jerky movements of a sci-fi automaton, however, but the strange instruments of a science fiction soundtrack.’
    • ‘And in one sense there's nothing new about them - humanoid automata have captured the popular imagination for centuries.’
    • ‘The earliest ‘robots’ were the fixed-base mechanical automatons of the 18th century.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The camera pans right to left, over the mechanical cymbals, et cetera, on to the automaton playing the drums.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He manages to create a believable world of automatons and clockwork mechanisms against a backdrop of the real world.’
    • ‘Originally, the challenge was to design an automaton that could walk unassisted.’
    • ‘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. 1.1 A machine which performs a range of functions according to a predetermined set of coded instructions.
      ‘sophisticated automatons continue to run factory assembly lines’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We know how to build toy thinking machines, automatons, but that's not the same thing.’
      • ‘In computer science, an automaton is an abstract machine that can serve as a model of computation.’
      • ‘Already in the seventeenth century the possibility was widely discussed that animals could be understood as machines or automata.’
      robot, computer
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Used in comparisons to refer to a person who seems to act in a mechanical or unemotional way.
      ‘like an automaton, she walked to the door’
      • ‘They are thinking human beings not automatons.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The 21st century demands free-thinkers, not an endless parade of automatons churned out from a formulaic educational assembly line.’
      • ‘It seems to escape most people that we docs are actually human beings too, 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘For one thing, human beings do not experience themselves as being clockwork automata.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They are not the unemotional automatons of science fiction myth.’
      • ‘No longer were automata performing like humans; humans were performing like automata.’
      • ‘A world of automata - of creatures that worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It needs automatons, cogs who fit neatly in the machine.’


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