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[aw-tuh-mat-ik] /ˌɔ təˈmæt ɪk/
having the capability of starting, operating, moving, etc., independently:
an automatic sprinkler system; an automatic car wash.
Physiology. occurring independently of volition, as certain muscular actions; involuntary.
done unconsciously or from force of habit; mechanical:
an automatic application of the brakes.
occurring spontaneously:
automatic enthusiasm.
(of a firearm, pistol, etc.) utilizing the recoil or part of the force of the explosive to eject the spent cartridge shell, introduce a new cartridge, cock the arm, and fire it repeatedly.
a machine that operates automatically.
Football. audible (def 2).
an automobile equipped with automatic transmission.
on automatic, being operated or controlled by or as if by an automatic device.
Origin of automatic
1740-50; < Greek autómat(os) self-moving (see automaton) + -ic
Related forms
automatically, adverb
[aw-tuh-muh-tis-i-tee] /ˌɔ tə məˈtɪs ɪ ti/ (Show IPA),
nonautomatic, adjective
nonautomatically, adverb
quasi-automatic, adjective
quasi-automatically, adverb
subautomatic, adjective
subautomatically, adverb
unautomatic, adjective
unautomatically, adverb
Synonym Study
2. Automatic, involuntary, spontaneous all mean not under the control of the will. That which is automatic, however, is an invariable reaction to a fixed type of stimulus: The patella reflex is automatic. That which is involuntary is an unexpected response that varies according to the occasion, circumstances, mood, etc.: an involuntary cry of pain. That which is spontaneous arises from immediate stimuli and usually involves an expression of strong feeling: a spontaneous roar of laughter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for automatic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Wheatstone was knighted in 1868, after his completion of the automatic telegraph.

  • At last, with a shake of the head, we consented to get into the automatic carriage.

    Freeland Theodor Hertzka
  • Hilary's hand went to the butt of the automatic within his blouse.

    Slaves of Mercury Nat Schachner
  • He stopped, whirled, automatic thrusting its blue nose forward.

    Slaves of Mercury Nat Schachner
  • The automatic dropped from his hand, and he crimped up like a stuck grubworm.

    The Cruise of the Dry Dock T. S. Stribling
British Dictionary definitions for automatic


performed from force of habit or without conscious thought; lacking spontaneity; mechanical: an automatic smile
  1. (of a device, mechanism, etc) able to activate, move, or regulate itself
  2. (of an act or process) performed by such automatic equipment
(of the action of a muscle, gland, etc) involuntary or reflex
occurring as a necessary consequence: promotion is automatic after a year
(of a firearm)
  1. utilizing some of the force of or gas from each explosion to eject the empty shell case, replace it with a new one, and fire continuously until release of the trigger Compare semiautomatic (sense 2)
  2. short for semiautomatic (sense 2) See also machine (sense 5)
an automatic firearm
a motor vehicle having automatic transmission
a machine that operates automatically
Derived Forms
automatically, adverb
automaticity (ˌɔːtəʊməˈtɪsɪtɪ) noun
Word Origin
C18: from Greek automatos acting independently
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for automatic

"self-acting, moving or acting on its own," 1812, from Greek automatos, used of the gates of Olympus and the tripods of Hephaestus (also "without apparent cause, by accident"), from autos "self" (see auto-) + matos "thinking, animated" (see automaton). Of involuntary animal or human actions, from 1748, first used in this sense by English physician and philosopher David Hartley (1705-1757). In reference to a type of firearm, from 1877; specifically of machinery that imitates human-directed action from 1940.


"automatic weapon," 1902, from automatic (adj.). Meaning "motorized vehicle with automatic transmission" is from 1949.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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