Does the "gen" from "genocide" come from "genus" as in "race"? If so, what Latin prefix should one use to describe the wiping out of robots? I can't say "codacide" can I? Automatacide?

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    It seems that it comes from Greek genos and the 'correct' construction (with both roots in Latin) would have been genticide. Robotum is attested (see. e.g. Pons Wörterbuch des neuen Lateins.) Hence roboticide (but probably works better for one robot.)
    – Rafael
    Apr 11, 2017 at 12:01
  • Since genocide does not specify the race (but suggests humanity,) it seems logical to use a more general term that you can later specify, like classicide of robots. (Here, class is applied to classes of beings rather than social classes.)
    – Rafael
    Apr 11, 2017 at 12:07
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    "robocide" perhaps, like English "robopsychology"?
    – Asteroides
    Apr 11, 2017 at 16:25
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    Rafael is probably right that a compound with -i- rather than -o- would be better as that type is more standard, but "mixed" compounds do have a long history (e.g. protosedeo).
    – Asteroides
    Apr 11, 2017 at 16:31
  • What's wrong with "robot genocide"?
    – cmw
    Apr 15, 2017 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


My vote is for automatocide for the following reasons:

(1) automatos / αυτοματος (sg), automata / αυτοματα (pl) is attested in ancient literature as referring to self-acting, autonomous, mechanical beings. Some examples include:

  • The self-opening gates of Olympus (αυτομαται πυλαι) in Homer, Iliad, 5.749
  • The self-moving tripods Hephaestus made, referred to as οι αυτοματοι / the autonomous ones, in Homer, Iliad, 18.376
  • A reference to “miraculous automatic puppets” (τα αυτοματα των θαυματων) in Aristotle, Generation of Animals, 734b11

I think the nominalised adjective automata is broad enough to encompass a variety of mechanical, autonomous beings (in response to Rafael’s comment about "classicide").

(2) as an example of its use in a compound form, we have automatopoiika / αυτοματοποιικα from Philo of Byzantium's (fl. ca. 250 BC) engineering manual on how to build automata.

(3) I know you asked for a Latin prefix but as Rafael established, the gen- of genocide has a Greek root so using automato- seems legitimate. Also, I’m not aware of any Roman writings on robots whereas the Greeks wrote about robot-like beings quite frequently, hence the ready-made term automata.

EDIT (4) automatum does appear in Latin works, although very rarely. In Petronius, it does seem to refer to an automaton or at least a clockwork toy of some sort:

  • ne per parietem automatum aliquod exiret / lest some automaton leap out of the wall (Satyricon, 54)

In Suetonius, however, it seems to be more of an ordinary mechanical device, not intended to look or act like a human:

  • si automatum ... parum cessisset / if a device ... had worked insufficiently (Lives of the Caesars: Claudius, 5.34)

[Admittedly weaker] alternatives from classical literature could include (note: these are my own neologisms, based on the literature):

Mechanicide: from the story in Polybius’ Histories of the robot tax-collector’s wife who crushed and pierced recalcitrant tax payers to death. She is referred to as a machine / μηχανη (13.7). Of course, this could so easily be misunderstood as killing of mechanics, so perhaps not that useful! On the plus side, however, this is the same "machine" of deus ex machina (a Latin calque of the Greek απο μηκανης θεος), which post-Matrix/Ex Machina/various sci-fi and anime movies/video games, and philosopher Gilbert Ryle's “ghost in the machine”, is used as a reference to AI.

Chalkicide (pronounced kalkicide): from the story of Talos, the robot who guarded Crete, in Apollonius’ Argonautica (4.1638-1686). Talos is referred to as a bronze man / χαλκειος (4.1638). Hence my offering of chalkicide. This is clearly flawed as it looks like death to chalk!

Talicide: in honour of poor Talos / Ταλως who was tragically killed in the line of duty by the witch Medea.

If I were to read roboticide in a book, I would know exactly what it meant and, to that end, it works. However, pace Pons Wörterbuch des neuen Lateins, I don’t think robotum is real Latin but rather a Latinisation of the Czech word robotnik / a slave, itself from robota / slave workforce, from the verb robtotiti / to work. This is from Old Slavic and doesn’t seem to have any roots in either Greek or Latin. English adopted the word robot from the Czech author Karel Capek’s play R.U.R. Rossum's Universal Robots.

  • Automatocide also has gravitas. Chalkicide would be too obscure without readers looking it up.
    – Brofitable
    Apr 16, 2017 at 15:34

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