I have a technical documentation where robots are working together in a team. They are referred to as participants (lower case!). Is this correct in English? How should it be called? (field bus) devices?

I think a participant has to be a person. This is also what a dictionaries say.


noun [ C ] us ​ /pɑrˈtɪs·ə·pənt/

a person who takes part in or becomes involved in a particular activity:

Cambridge English Dictionary

  • There is no reason why a participant must be a human being—unless you choose to define it that way yourself. I would find both the horses participated in the Kentucky Derby and the man and computer participated in a chess match to be acceptable. But if you don't like those constructions, then use a different word. – Jason Bassford Jan 31 at 7:06
  • @JasonBassford I'm not so sure. I think participate implies choice (i.e. conscious decision) which is not something robots are yet capable of. A quick scan of dictionaries gives "take part in" which is an active function as distinct from the passive "be a part of". But perhaps we need the OED to give us a deeper understanding... :-) – Chappo Jan 31 at 12:17
  • @Chappo You need to define choice. Robots certain can choose—just through algorithms rather than self-awareness or consciousness. But if choice is essential to your interpretation, it's interesting that you didn't rule out horses. And I'm curious if you think an artificial intelligence or magically enchanted broom would qualify. (Personally, I'm not even sure if choice itself, of any nature, is required.) Certainly, the word could be used in a poetic sense, in the same way we assign some inanimate objects gender. – Jason Bassford Jan 31 at 13:53
  • @JasonBassford I'd say you've got the foundations of an answer sitting there ;-) – Chappo Jan 31 at 22:25
  • In my case, the robots did not choose themselves. I chose for them. If you think this though, for (major) soccer clubs, the players also don't choose. They where chosen by the trainer/manager. Are they participants to the team? To the match? To the league? I don't think choice is related to participation. – kuga Feb 4 at 14:29

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