Antedatings and Etymology of "Robot"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat May 25 11:12:30 UTC 2013

Here is a very slight antedating of "robot":

robot (OED, n.2, 10 Oct. 1922)
1922 _N.Y. Tribune_ 8 Oct. (Chronicling America)  Robots are mechanical men invented to do the work of the world.

I am not sure why the following earlier citation, posted by me on ADS-L in 2003, was not included in the OED's revised entry for "robot":

1922 _N.Y. Times_ 13 Aug. 78  According to the Czechoslovaks -- "R.U.R." is a
Czechoslovak play -- the piece departs from many dramatic traditions.  The author is Karel
Capek, and the full title is "Rosum's Universal Robots."

As I noted in 2003, the OED's etymology should probably be revised, since it refers to
Karel Capek's play "R.U.R." (1920), but not to the earlier Czech usage of "robot"
mentioned by Allan Metcalf in his book _The World In So Many Words_, namely Josef
Capek's short story "Opilec" (1917).

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

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