I came across the following sentence of the Time magazine’s article (March 22) dealing with the gaffe made by Mitt Romney’s adviser Eric Fehrnstrom who compared the frequent changes of Romney’s rhetric to an Etch A Sketch as follows:

It’s the type of meme that both conservatives and liberals gleefully participated in, because it’s a much more light-hearted way to make the same argument about Romney — that he has no “core,” as Rick Santorum would say — without describing him as some sort of a pink-slip happy Steve Carell or ruthless preprogrammed GOP-bot.

I also saw “Obama-bots” in the following quote from colesville.patch.com:

Does an extra $40 per paycheck (every two weeks) make a difference to you? ... Obama bots in the Senate killed the one year extension. The two month extension was a compromise agreed upon by the Senate GOP, Senate Dems and approved by Speaker Boehner.

I don’t find the entry of bot in English Japanese dictionaries at hand. Cambridge online dictionary defines bot as

a computer program that automatically searches the internet for particular products, compares their prices, and often gives customers' opinions of their quality

and Oxford Dictionary defines it as

  1. the larva of the botfly, which is an internal parasite of horses.
  2. Australian/NZ informal: a person who persistently borrows or cadges from others.

However, neither seems to apply to Obama-bots or GOP-bots.
Is bot an abbreviation of a certain word? Is “Proper noun + bot” a new usage? What does it mean?

  • "... Australian/NZ informal: a person who persistently borrows or cadges from others ..." is not a usage that I've ever heard or used. In the examples that you've quoted, "bot" is an abbreviation of "robot"; meaning that these people do what they're told (by Obama or the GoP) without giving the matter any thought. – user16269 Mar 24 '12 at 3:51
  • Another common informal usage of "bot" is an unspecified illness, for example "I'm in bed with a bot". I think it's originally an abbreviation for "botulism", although that's not actually what it means. – user16269 Mar 24 '12 at 3:53
  • @David Wallace. Regarding Australian / NZ’s informal usage of ‘bot,’ I simply cut and pasted the definition from Cambridge Online Dictionary. I can’t tell whether the entry is trustworthy or not. But it’s strange that the reputed dictionary like CED registers the definition / usage that doesn’t pass among, or isn’t recognized by people of referred countries. – Yoichi Oishi Mar 24 '12 at 8:31

That is being used pejoratively and clippingly to compare them to the full word robots.

from the Wikipedia entry linked above:


Fore-clipping or aphaeresis retains the final part. Examples: chute (parachute), coon (raccoon), gator (alligator), phone (telephone), pike (turnpike), varsity (university).

  • Well, it didn’t occur to me at all. It seems I wasted time in fishing for the definition of the word online and on paper, simply because of total lack of imagination! – Yoichi Oishi Mar 24 '12 at 1:53
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    Oh, come on now! You'll be more imaginative tomorrow. :) – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Mar 24 '12 at 1:56
  • If Obama-bot, GOP-bot is possible as a clipping of robot, Putin-bot, Kim Jong Il-bot, Assad-bot should be possible. Can I say wife-bot, mother-bot, boss-bot, and Pope-bot as well? Are they understood? – Yoichi Oishi Mar 24 '12 at 21:31
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    @Yoichi Oishi: Don't pay too much mind to cornbread there! Political hacks can get away with comparing their political targets to automata - but what qualities about your wife, the boss, or the Pope could you usefully encapsulate by appending -bot? I don't think you'd find many opportunities to use the suffix "productively". – FumbleFingers Mar 25 '12 at 23:53
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    FunbleFingers. Valuable advice! Actually I don’t think there’s any chance of using “wife / boss / Pope and whatever-bot among my company. I just wanted to know how far I can push the envelope of bot concept just for curiosity. – Yoichi Oishi Mar 26 '12 at 11:25

Bot is a short form for robot, typically used on the Internet to refer to a program that does something in an automated way. These programs are controlled by some central computer which instructs them what to do. For example, a spam-bot is a program that sends out spam email messages. Spam-bots are installed by viruses and are not under the control of the user of a computer, but are rather remotely controlled by a hacker.

The phrase "ruthlessly programmed GOP-bot" seems to be a direct analogy to the spam-bot. It means a Republican party supporter that does the bidding of the party without any thought of his own.

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    The "-bot" suffix meaning robot is much earlier than its use for an automated computer program, I believe. I might cite Autobot (1984), Cambot (1988), fembot (NSFW) (1997)... – Nate Eldredge Mar 24 '12 at 16:47
  • @NateEldredge you are correct. When I wrote it I meant that the usage had migrated from the automated computer program recently, but I forgot about older usages for actual robots. I removed the sentence. – Wayne Johnston Mar 24 '12 at 20:09

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