Who Coined The Term “Robot”?
Answer: Josef Čapek
The etymological road back to the first use of the word Robot is a winding one. It would be easy to give the award to Isaac Asimov as he was the first to use the term Robotics and, through his prolific and well received science fiction writing, helped popularize the idea of robotics. None the less Asimov didn’t first pen Robotics until the 1940s.
Over 20 years earlier a Czech playwright by the name of Karel Čapek produced a play by the name of R.U.R (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The play centers around human-like but mechanical workers, much closer to what we would call Androids in our present sci-fi lingo. In the play the robots are conscious and much of the play focuses on whether or not they are, as thinking but man-made creatures, being exploited.
Karel had originally intended to call them laboři (“workers”) but his brother, Czech painter Josef Čapek, encouraged him to call them roboti, or robots–derived from the term “robota”. Robota literally meant serf labor and was used figuratively to refer to drudgery or hard work. The term caught on and robot became the go-to word for millions of people when describing autonomous laborers.