Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A self-operating machine or mechanism, especially a robot.
  • n. One that behaves or responds in a mechanical way.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A machine or robot designed to follow a precise sequence of instructions.
  • n. A person who acts like a machine or robot, often defined as having a monotonous lifestyle and lacking in emotion.
  • n. A formal system, such as finite automaton.
  • n. A toy in the form of a mechanical figure.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any thing or being regarded as having the power of spontaneous motion or action.
  • n. A self-moving machine, or one which has its motive power within itself; -- applied chiefly to machines which appear to imitate spontaneously the motions of living beings, such as men, birds, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. That which is self-moving, or has the power of spontaneous movement, but is not conscious.
  • n. Specifically A self-acting machine, or one which is actuated in such a manner as to carry on for some time certain movements without the aid of external impulse.
  • n. A living being acting mechanically or as a mere machine, especially without consciousness; a person or an animal whose actions are purely involuntary or mechanical.
  • n. A person who acts in a monotonous routine manner, without active intelligence, especially without being fully aware of what he is doing.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. someone who acts or responds in a mechanical or apathetic way
  • n. a mechanism that can move automatically

Etymologies

Latin, self-operating machine, from Greek, from neuter of automatos, self-acting; see automatic.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek αὐτόματον (automaton), neuter of αὐτόματος (automatos, "self moving, self willed"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The automaton is all that is left of his previous life.

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  • The automaton is one of many built to help Lincoln hit the campaign trail and who subsequently became the sheriff of a small town.

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  • This year’s homework question was to find an interesting cellular automaton from the rule space of radius 3/2 with two colors.

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  • He became a visitor to the "Man with the Rolling Eye," though I believe he used to call my automaton "The Sheik of Baalbec."

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  • Thus, according to Descartes, the animal body is an automaton, which is competent to perform all the animal functions in exactly the same way as

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  • Eventually, having struck up a friendship with Mr Méliès's cute and adventurous niece Isabelle, Hugo discovers that the old man is none other than the real life great pre-war film-maker Georges Méliès, fallen on hard times and turning his face against his own gift - and that the automaton is a special link to him.

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  • We look here only to the necessity of the connection of events in a time-series as it is developed according to the physical law, whether the subject in which this development takes place is called automaton materiale when the mechanical being is moved by matter, or with Leibnitz spirituale when it is impelled by ideas; and if the freedom of our will were no other than the latter

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  • Indeed Rivera manages to capture not just the feeling of intense activity in an automobile plant but the kind of automaton-like rhythm we associate with assembly-line production.

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  • An encounter with an eccentric girl and the owner of small toy kiosk in the train station sets in motion a mysterious adventure involving a stolen key, a treasured notebook, and an enigmatic mechanical man or "automaton" – with the real-life figure of cinematic pioneer Georges Méliès providing the crucial link between inventive fantasy and historical fact.

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  • Suddenly, Hillary was no longer the "automaton" with wonkish talk.

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