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Are there any terms for referring to robot-kind, as flora refers to plants and fauna to animals?

I'm looking for a word that would fit in with flora and fauna, so if it derives from Latin or Roman mythology that would be ideal. A made-up word would be OK if it sounds right.

So far my best candidate is forma. I like this term because it sounds similar to the flora and fauna, and resembles form (robots are highly structured entities).

EDIT: I originally asked this question because I am writing a story in which a class of semi-sentient robots have become part of the local ecosystem. I needed a term to refer to this group of entities in the same manner as flora and fauna. A lot of interesting discussion resulted, and brought up some issues that had not occurred to me, like whether I am referring to all types of robots or just the semi-sentient subset. Since I am writing fiction my main goal is to use a term that sounds like something "the locals" would use, even if it's not technically correct. However I still appreciate all of the answers, and I think the technicalities will be of use to others who stumble across this question!

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I can't think of an existing word but forma sounds great. –  neil Jun 7 '12 at 12:15
Are you looking for a made-up word or an existing word? –  Mitch Jun 7 '12 at 12:28
@Mitch: If a word for this exists that would be useful, but inspiration for made-up words would be helpful too. –  M. Dudley Jun 7 '12 at 12:42
ANimal, vegetable, mineral - flora, fauna, ..._machina_ (pardon the natural but inconsistent ordering). automata –  Mitch Jun 7 '12 at 13:01
you should edit your question to state that you aren't looking for a word similar to the classifications of Flora and Fauna, since you don't want a top-level classification like that (one that would encompass robots and all mechanical devices), but rather a specific sub-classification that would be restricted to just robots... like how Canidae is a sub class of Fauna, in that it covers all dogs, wolves, foxes, etc, but does not cover all animals. That would at least explain your choice of answers. –  Bon Gart Jun 8 '12 at 15:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 58 down vote accepted

From singular automaton - a self-operating machine or mechanism, especially a robot, a logical term for "robot-kind" as distinct from flora/fauna is the plural automata.

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Thanks for reminding me for one of my exams- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automata_theory –  speedyGonzales Jun 7 '12 at 12:47
I disagree. Automaton is just a synonym for Robot, just as Automatons/Automata are just synonyms for Robots. It does not encompass everything mechanized, which robots are just one small portion of. If dog is to fauna, then robot is NOT to automata. If automata is just the plural of automaton, which is just another word for robots, then you are saying that dog is to fauna while robot is to robots. –  Bon Gart Jun 7 '12 at 22:50
@Bon: Define your terms. Google's first definition for automaton is a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being, which I think could also pass as a pretty standard definition of "robot" for most people. But thanks for explaining the downvote, anyway. –  FumbleFingers Jun 7 '12 at 22:55
I do not disagree that an automaton is a robot. I disagree that the word Automata is to Fauna and Flora, as Robot is to Dog and Flower. –  Bon Gart Jun 7 '12 at 23:01
@emddudley: Well let's face it, flora/fauna is a pretty crude division. And besides being microfauna, zooplankton are "widespread microscopic animals". I wouldn't call such pondlife "sentient", but then again - is a rabbit sentient? What about a worm? An aphid? The thing is automata might soon be capable of self-replication - but unlike us and everything else we know, they won't be using DNA for evolution. –  FumbleFingers Jun 8 '12 at 2:24

Forma is good, but it's a Latin word which means form in the sense of shape.

If you want a word which goes with flora (plants) and fauna (animals) to mean "what is made", then facta might be a possibility as that Latin word does actually mean "made".

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facta is fantastic. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jun 7 '12 at 12:28
Well I have T-shirts with label made in China, does it mean, that I am robot :D –  speedyGonzales Jun 7 '12 at 12:28
@speedyGonzales No, it means you are made of porcelain. :) With that in mind, I shudder what people today would make of a t-shirt that said “Et homo factus est.” :) –  tchrist Jun 10 '12 at 12:45
@tchrist I would prefer sign homo habilis lupus est because I am too lazy to be a human and we know that work turns animal into human, although today the opposite is also true. –  speedyGonzales Jun 10 '12 at 12:51

Actually, you don't have to fabricate your own word. There already is one.


Mecha (alternatively: mech, mechs) is a science fiction genre, that centres around robots or machines. These machines vary greatly in size, shape and appearance. Some are little more than cars with arms and legs, while others are giant humanoid constructs.

The Japanese word for mech is "mecha" which is derived from the Japanese abbreviation meka (メカ?) for the English word "mechanical". In Japanese, mecha encompasses all mechanical objects, including cars, guns, computers, and other devices.

found that in Wikipedia.

The word is already in use in movies, anime, etc. It is the flora/fauna for robots and mechanical items.

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"Mech" may be trademarked. Not sure about Mecha –  horatio Jun 7 '12 at 15:04
Mecha has more of a cyberpunk/futuristic vibes. I can't really put my finger on it, but depending on the context, in my opinion, automataseems a better fit. –  Xavier T. Jun 7 '12 at 15:54
@XavierT. no, "automata" is the plural of "automaton" which is just another way of saying "robots" is the plural of "robot". Flora is much more than just the plural of "plant" and "fauna" is much more than just the plural of animal. Mecha encompasses the variety of mechanized devices out there, and includes Robots. A Robot is synonymous to a dog, in the context of fauna. Thus Mecha is to robot, as Fauna is to dog. –  Bon Gart Jun 7 '12 at 22:46
AFAIK, in English "Mecha" normally refers to giant battle robots only. Japenese has メカ (meka) for mechanisms (although I was pretty sure "kikai", "konpyuuta", "pasokon", "juu", "gan" were used for other things you mentioned), "mecha" means "nonsense" in japanese according to jisho.org... –  SigTerm Jun 8 '12 at 14:45
@sigterm for you, maybe Mecha only refers to giant battle robots (which is odd you say that this is for English, since your reference is obviously the imported Japanese Anime), but from the movies and references I've seen, Mecha does indeed refer to everything mechanical. Just like Fauna refers to animals. –  Bon Gart Jun 8 '12 at 15:56

Automaton is a word usually used in today's world for abstract machines such as those in Computer Science whereas it did mean intelligent machines in Ancient Greek scriptures. SpeedyGonzales proved a point with his link.

Mecha is generally used for Human-controlled robots such as in Mobile Suit Gundam and Zone of the Enders. The two examples, you will note, are both of Japanese origins which proves the idea originated from there.

Machina is a word that is usually used when we refer to machines in general and seems to be the most apt form for a genus of robots.

Moreover, robots aren't necessarily supposed to be anthropomorphic. That is why the term android came about, to specifically mean machines with human like characteristics. Thus machina would be a more suitable word than automata.

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+1 - Thorough :-) –  M. Dudley Jun 10 '12 at 4:30

If you want to use Latin word that collect all the meanings of robot use robotum, the Latin word for robot. I know that word robot comes from Czech writer Karel Capek, being used for first time in his books R.U.R.. The earliest word for something like robot is Machina Erectus, an early version of robot, all mehanical with ropes and moving parts of the body was developed by Leonardo Da Vinci. That word is in Latin too. Android is male robot, while Gynoid is female robot. Cyborg is short for cybernetic organism is part biological, part mechanical.

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Thanks for the ideas. –  M. Dudley Jun 7 '12 at 12:17
I like this. Flora, fauna, robota. (As an aside, I wonder, why does there need to be gender in the naming of robots? I thought android was for man-like, with man meaning mankind [which includes women]. I've never heard of gynoid.) –  JLG Jun 7 '12 at 13:36
As quoted from wikipedia "An android is a robot or synthetic organism designed to look and act like a human, and with a body having a flesh-like resemblance. Although "android" is used almost universally to refer to both sexes, and those of no particular sex, "Android" technically refers to the male form, while "Gynoid" is the feminine form". We try to make robots more human like, I believe that this is the answer for such diversity. –  speedyGonzales Jun 7 '12 at 13:53
Specifically, robot comes from robota in Czech, meaning 'forced labour', apparently. –  Stuart Pegg Jun 8 '12 at 17:58

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