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See also: aŭtomaton


English Wikipedia has an article on:
The Digesting Duck of Jacques de Vaucanson, hailed in 1739 as the first automaton capable of digestion.
A diagram of a formal automaton.


From Ancient Greek αὐτόματον (autómaton), neuter of αὐτόματος (autómatos, self moving, self willed). Doublet of automat.


  • enPR: ô-tŏm'ə-tən, ô-tŏm'ə-tŏn, IPA(key): /ɔːˈtɒmətən/, /ɔːˈtɒməˌtɒn/
  • IPA(key): /əˈtɑməˌtɑn/
  • (file)


automaton (plural automatons or automata)

  1. A machine or robot designed to follow a precise sequence of instructions.
    • 2004, Alan Hollinghurst, chapter 9, in The Line of Beauty [], 1st US edition, New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN:
      Nick had heard her play through the very beginning of it a dozen times, until he was screaming at her in his head to go on. Well, now she did, watching her own hands busying up and down the keyboard as if they were astonishing automata that she had wound up and set in motion, in perfect synchrony, to produce this silvery flow of sound.
  2. A person who acts like a machine or robot, often defined as having a monotonous lifestyle and lacking in emotion.
    Due to her strict adherence to her daily schedule, Jessica was becoming more and more convinced that she was an automaton.
    • July 12, 1816, Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval Monticello
      A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second, that second for a third, and so on 'til the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering.
    • 1838 (date written), L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “(please specify the page)”, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume I, London: Henry Colburn, [], published 1842, →OCLC, pages 228–229:
      —to the young man who filled a place at table as the permitted, not invited, the unrewarded labourer for an ungrateful taskmaster—the handsome dangler, allowed to join in a quadrille, on the condition of being an automaton before and after—the listener to young members, and old women of rank—the person who must bore nobody, but whom every body had a right to bore!
  3. A formal system, such as a finite-state machine or cellular automaton.
  4. A toy in the form of a mechanical figure.
  5. (dated) The self-acting power of the muscular and nervous systems, by which movement is effected without intelligent determination.


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Borrowed from Ancient Greek αὐτόματον (autómaton), neuter of αὐτόματος (autómatos, self-moving, self-willed).



automaton n (genitive automatī); second declension

  1. automaton
  2. contraption
  3. device


Second-declension noun (neuter, Greek-type).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative automaton automata
Genitive automatī automatōrum
Dative automatō automatīs
Accusative automaton automata
Ablative automatō automatīs
Vocative automaton automata


  • autŏmătus”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • automaton in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.