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 formsau·to·mat·i·cal·ly, adverbau·to·ma·tic·i·ty [aw-tuh-muh-tis-i-tee] /ˌɔ tə məˈtɪs ɪ ti/, nounnon·au·to·mat·ic, adjectivenon·au·to·mat·i·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-au·to·mat·ic, adjectivequa·si-au·to·mat·i·cal·ly, adverbsub·au·to·mat·ic, adjectivesub·au·to·mat·i·cal·ly, adverbun·au·to·mat·ic, adjectiveun·au·to·mat·i·cal·ly, 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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for automatic

Contemporary Examples of automatic

Historical Examples of automatic

  • 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.


    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.

British Dictionary definitions for automatic



performed from force of habit or without conscious thought; lacking spontaneity; mechanicalan 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 consequencepromotion 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 triggerCompare semiautomatic (def. 2)
  2. short for semiautomatic (def. 2) See also machine (def. 5)


an automatic firearm
a motor vehicle having automatic transmission
a machine that operates automatically
Derived Formsautomatically, adverbautomaticity (ˌɔːtəʊməˈtɪsɪtɪ), noun

Word Origin for automatic

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

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