Antedating of "Robot"

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 3 16:52:58 UTC 2003

The OED's first use for the word "robot" is dated 1923.  Here is an

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

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_: Josef Capek's short story "Opilec" (1917).

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at     

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