I'm specifically thinking of an AI, robot or android with near-human intelligence. The kind that you'd expect to see as a major character on a sci-fi show, acting almost indistinguishably from the humans, except for being really good with computers, then in one episode having to argue that he/she (it?) should have the same basic rights as all the human characters.

So, is there a word for someone prejudiced against or afraid of non-organic beings such as androids?

P.S. The motivation was this SFF chat comment, which uses the term "racism" in reference to Data (from Star Trek: TNG) being passed up for promotion. That doesn't seem like the right term to me, but I can't think of a better one.

  • In common speech, racism is thrown around for other, different bigotries, like speciesism. In my specific instance, its was partly in jest.
    – cde
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 22:01
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    @JohnLawler are words that might be found in fantasy or science fiction on topic?
    – cde
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 23:05
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    Robophobia seems to be forcing its way into the lexicon. Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 23:07
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    Automatonophobia is the fear of anything that falsely represents a sentient being That seems closer.
    – cde
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 23:42
  • 1
    For reference, Asimov called it the "Frankenstein complex". Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 23:33

2 Answers 2


The word "automatonophobia" covers a fear of some robots. It comes from combining automatos (neuter, automaton) meaning "acting on its own" with phobos, meaning fear. But it also applies to a fear of any representation of a sentient being -- ventriloquists' dummies, dolls, wax figures, and so on. Of course, not all robots look like androids

The word at least has the purity of etymological descent from Greek, which is more than can be said for "robotphobia" and "robophobia," which have some cyberpresence. The word "robot" comes from the Czech word robota, meaning forced labor or drudgery, and was coined by Czech writer Karel Čapek for his 1921 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots).

  • Well, we can use the time-honored tradition of back-formation to extract a combining Grecoid form robo- from the already-established word robotic (compare with necrotic and necrophobia). Is the combining form of automaton really automotono-? I thought the -on was just the neuter suffix, not a part of the stem. @Cerberus might know.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 0:21
  • In fact, I'm almost sure that isn't the correct classical combining form: compare to "bacterion," which has the combining form "bacterio-". I think the coiners of "automatonophobia" just got confused because the suffix in "automaton" was not Latinized the way it was in "bacterium." So it seems to me that a "pure" derivation from Ancient Greek would require "automatophobia" instead.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 0:39

I'll advocate for robophobia, which seems to me to be an understandable and well-formed word. (In contrast, the similar word robotphobia seems to me ill-formed and phonetically awkward).

True, "robot" is not originally from Greek; but there are already words in English that use a pseudo-Greek stem robo-. We have robotic/robotics and robotize, as well as a fairly productive combining form robo- that as far as I can tell can be prefixed to pretty much any noun (Robocall, Robodog, Robocop, Robo-Advisor).

So it seems to me to be available for new coinages.

Here are a few attested examples of "robophobia" in the wild:

(hat tip to Edwin Ashworth's comment)

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