Bêtement is a French word whose literal meaning is 'in the manner of an animal'. It is often used metaphorically, to describe an action carried out in a robotic fashion – without thinking. How would you translate this sense into English? Perhaps robotically is the answer, but can anyone think of anything better?
Bêtement has other meanings than the one you are referring to, but in this case, when you do something without thinking, you do it mindlessly.
"She mindlessly passed me on the street without even giving a hint of recognition."
"I have been mindlessly driving to work everyday, and never noticed that our beloved oak tree was gone."
mindlessly: Giving or showing little attention or care; heedless.
You might consider the French phrase Que je suis bête ! to mean "I am stupid!" (Am I stupid!), but a more subtle meaning might be "What was I thinking!" which is a short distance from "I wasn't thinking". In other words, "I was acting mindlessly" ( Je me comportais bêtement ) .
"Bêtement" is by no means associated with ideas of insanity, and even less of bestiality.
It is a very mild word to say "foolishly".
"Zut, j'ai bêtement oublié mes clefs !" = "Oops, I have foolishly forgotten my keys !"
and "tout bêtement" means "quite simply"
"Alors, je suis rentré tout bêtement par la fenêtre". = "Then, I quite simply went in through the window".
and "une bêtise" = a not really important blunder.
The most common animal metaphor relevant here is that of cattle - so you can say in a bovine manner thus denoting their dull and stolid mechanical nature.
Bovine is apt in this figurative sense. Continuing the animal metaphors you may prefer mutton-headed, which basically carries the same meaning of being dull and slow-witted.
A good non-animal robotic metaphor is automaton-like.
'Mechanically' comes up as the best fit. It is unusual to find a French word for which there is no exact equivalent in English, since English has a larger vocabulary than French. I can think of dozens of English words for which it is difficult to find a French equivalent, the most obvious ones being 'home', 'fair', 'cosy' etc. I'm not an expert, but it is sometimes said that whilst the English rely on vocabulary to shade their meanings and alter the nuance, the French achieve a similar effect through inflections of grammar, in particular through the use of the subjunctive.
Since writing this @ Jim has suggested the word 'mindlessly' for this particular meaning of the word betement. This would seem to me to fit precisely, though I do of course recognise that betement has other meanings.
- brutal or savage
- sexually depraved; carna
- lacking in refinement; brutish
- of or relating to a beast
Also consider beastly
Of or resembling a beast; bestial.
If you are just asking about an unthinking manner, your term robotically may be appropriate. You also could consider mechanically
(of an action) done without thought or spontaneity; automatic
The terms drone-like and sheep-like are also used to suggest automaton like behavior.