Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

automaton

play
noun au·tom·a·ton \ȯ-ˈtä-mə-tən, -mə-ˌtän\

Simple Definition of automaton

  • : a machine that can move by itself

  • : a person who acts in a mechanical or machinelike way

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of automaton

plural

automatons

or

automata

play \-mə-tə, -mə-ˌtä\
  1. 1 :  a mechanism that is relatively self-operating; especially :  robot

  2. 2 :  a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions

  3. 3 :  an individual who acts in a mechanical fashion

Did You Know?

The idea of the automaton has fascinated people for many centuries. A traveler to the emperor's court in Byzantium in A.D. 949 reported that mechanical birds sat in a golden tree singing the songs of their species; that mechanical lions flanked the throne, roaring and switching their great tails; and that, as he stood watching, the emperor's throne suddenly shot upward toward the high ceiling, and when it slowly descended the emperor was wearing new robes. Early automata (notice the common plural form) often relied on water, steam, or falling weights to power them. Today automata, often called robots, are used in manufacturing plants to build not only vehicles but also much smaller electronic equipment.

Origin and Etymology of automaton

Latin, from Greek, neuter of automatos


First Known Use: 1611

Other Mechanical Engineering Terms


Learn More about automaton


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up automaton? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a very small amount

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

alphabet-pasta-spelling-help

Which is the correct spelling?

accommodate accomodate acommadate acommodate
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ