robot, noun

British English, CzechShow more A sense formerly found in British English but now obsolete; from Czech robota forced labour, used by Karel Capek in his play R.U.R. (1920).
Automatic traffic-lights. Also attributive, and occasionally figurative.
1930 Star 24 Jan.I think the success attained by the introduction of the robots is such that no motorist would like to see them removed.
1939 Forum 4 Feb. 35The Daily Dispatch, East London, is critical of a proposal to fix robots in the town’s streets.
1948 H.V. Morton In Search of S. Afr. 17Another word used in South Africa, but long discontinued in England, is robot for traffic lights.
1953 Drum Jan. 32A lady carrying a big but empty shopping bag..waited at the robot. We waited for the robot across the street.
1960 J.J.L. Sisson S. Afr. Judicial Dict. 869There may be certain circumstances when a motorist is entitled to proceed against a robot.
1969 A. Fugard Boesman & Lena 38When the robot said ‘Go’ there at Berry’s Corner I was nearly bang in my broek.
1970 S. Afr. Panorama Mar. 39An automatic camera installed at a robot-controlled intersection..records the date, time, number of seconds after the light turned red.
1971 Argus 12 May 14A person who deliberately goes through a red robot, causing an accident which kills his own passenger or other folk on the road, is a murderer.
1973 Star 12 May 12You espy the warning, painted in huge white letters on the road, Caution: Robot. If I was from Little Rock and didn’t know that here we merely describe traffic lights thus, I’d tend to panic.
1980 Family Post 29 Nov. 2Transkeian robots — straying cattle, sheep and goats, as well as pigs.
1982 E. Prov. Herald 9 June 7During construction there will be single lane traffic, controlled by a robot system.
1985 H. Prendini in Style Oct. 39We’re still stuck behind that verdommde robot (which some older South Africans insist on calling a ‘rowboh’ in the mistaken belief that this Czech word is French or something).
1990 T. Carnie in Natal Mercury 31 July 2Jumping red robots has always been a problem, but we don’t have the staff to man every intersection in the city.
1994 S. Botha in Sidelines Dec. 31Waiting at a robot I caught the eye of a young blonde matron at the wheel of a BMW.
Automatic traffic-lights. Also attributive, and occasionally figurative.
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