au·​tom·​a·​tism | \ ȯ-ˈtä-mə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce automatism (audio) \

Definition of automatism

1a : the quality or state of being automatic
b : an automatic action
2 : the moving or functioning (as of an organ, tissue, or a body part) without conscious control that occurs either independently of external stimuli (as in the beating of the heart) or under the influence of external stimuli (as in pupil dilation)
3 : a theory that views the body as a machine and consciousness as a noncontrolling adjunct of the body
4 : suspension of the conscious mind to release subconscious images automatism—the surrealist trend toward spontaneity and intuitionElle

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Other Words from automatism

automatist \ ȯ-​ˈtä-​mə-​tist How to pronounce automatism (audio) \ noun or adjective

Examples of automatism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Founded by French poet, essayist and critic André Breton, Surrealism rejected the premise that culture and politics should be guided by rational principles, instead elevating dreams, automatism and psychoanalysis. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, "Step Into a Surrealist World Populated by Horse-Shaped Lamps and Bicycle Tables," 16 Nov. 2020 While painters like André Masson and Joan Miró practiced visual automatism, others, René Magritte, Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí among them, used meticulous technique to create optical puns and illusions. Teju Cole, New York Times, "Site Information Navigation," 18 Oct. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'automatism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of automatism

1776, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for automatism

French automatisme, from automate automaton, from Latin automaton

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Time Traveler for automatism

Time Traveler

The first known use of automatism was in 1776

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Cite this Entry

“Automatism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for automatism


au·​tom·​a·​tism | \ ȯ-ˈtäm-ə-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce automatism (audio) \

Medical Definition of automatism

1 : an automatic action especially : any action performed without the doer's intention or awareness
2 : the power or fact of moving or functioning without conscious control either independently of external stimulation (as in the beating of the heart) or more or less directly under the influence of external stimuli (as in the dilating or contracting of the pupil of the eye)

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