[ aw-tom-uh-tiz-uhm ]

  1. the action or condition of being automatic; mechanical or involuntary action.

  2. Philosophy. the doctrine that all activities of animals, or of humans and animals, are entirely controlled by physical or physiological causes in which consciousness takes no part.

  1. Physiology. the involuntary functioning of an organic process, especially muscular, without apparent neural stimulation.

  2. Psychology.

    • the performance of an act or actions without the performer's awareness or conscious volition.

    • such an act, as sleepwalking.

  3. a method of producing pictorial art, as paintings and collages, associated chiefly with the dadaists and surrealists, in which the artist strives to allow the impulses of the unconscious to guide the hand in matters of line, color, and structure without the interference of conscious choice.

Origin of automatism

First recorded in 1880–85, automatism is from the Greek word automatismós a happening of itself. See automaton, -ism

Other words from automatism

  • au·tom·a·tist, noun, adjective

Words Nearby automatism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use automatism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for automatism


/ (ɔːˈtɒməˌtɪzəm) /

  1. the state or quality of being automatic; mechanical or involuntary action

  2. law philosophy the explanation of an action, or of action in general, as determined by the physiological states of the individual, admissible in law as a defence when the physiological state is involuntary, as in sleepwalking

  1. psychol the performance of actions, such as sleepwalking, without conscious knowledge or control

  2. the suspension of consciousness sought or achieved by certain artists and writers to allow free flow of uncensored thoughts

Derived forms of automatism

  • automatist, noun

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