Sunday, January 13, 2008




Robot is a word that is both a coinage by an individual person and a borrowing. It has been in English since 1923 when the Czech writer Karel ńĆapek's play R.U.R. was translated into English and presented in London and New York. R.U.R., published in 1921, is an abbreviation of Rossum's Universal Robots.

Robot itself comes from Czech robota, “servitude, forced labor,” from rab, “slave.”

The Slavic root behind robota is orb–, from the Indo-European root *orbh–, referring to separation from one's group or passing out of one sphere of ownership into another. This seems to be the sense that binds together its somewhat diverse group of derivatives, which includes Greek orphanos, “orphan,” Latin orbus, “orphaned,” and German Erbe.

Robota is also similar to another German derivative of this root, namely Arbeit, “work” (its Middle High German form arabeit is even more like the Czech word). Arbeit may be descended from a word that meant “slave labor,” and later generalized to just “labor.”
“inheritance,” in addition to the Slavic word for slave mentioned above. Czech

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