Definition of automat in US English:



  • A cafeteria in which food and drink were obtained from vending machines.

    • ‘Fueled by the nickels of new legions of white collar workers and immigrants who could not speak English and therefore could not order at a restaurant, the automat prospered in the early 1900s and handily survived the Depression.’
    • ‘When we got back from lunch, I realised I'd left mine back in the automat.’
    • ‘A lone female figure sits alone drinking in an automat, an area supplied with vending machines that is pure Americana.’
    • ‘By the 1920s, some restaurants and automats were heavily populated with gay men, especially late at night, and a few places openly catered to them.’
    • ‘When the detective in The Erasers eats lunch, it is in an automat where food is reduced to ‘cubes’ and ‘replicas.’’


Late 17th century (denoting an automaton): from German, from French automate, from Latin automaton (see automaton). The current sense dates from the early 20th century.