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In Episode IV, after Luke is rescued from the Sand People by Ben Kenobi, he refers to C-3PO and R2-D2 as robots rather than droids. This struck me as odd as the latter seems to be the preferred term throughout the series. Is this use of robot a one-off or perhaps a mistake?

  • I always thought Droid was short for Android, which is a robot with a human like form. That would apply to C-3PO but not R2-D2, even though they have both been referred to as droids. – Monty129 May 14 '13 at 9:46
  • @Monty129 I'm more curious as to how they were both referred to as robots. AFAIK, the scene mentioned in my question is the only one where the two droids are called robots. I'm curious to know if this is the only time this happens in the entire series. – coleopterist May 14 '13 at 14:31
  • Since it happens early in the movie, it could be simply to help viewers understand that these were mechanical automata of some sort -- if they had immediately jumped in to using "Droids" some people may have been more confused. I'm not sure how familiar the average movie-goer of the day would have been with the concept. Still, I'm just speculating. – PeterL May 14 '13 at 16:54
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    Originally, the word "android" (from which "droid" is obviously derived), meant simply "man-like" - andro-man, oid-in the form of. The word "cardioid", meaning "heart-shaped" is another example of this kind of word. So if you said "an android robot", it would mean a robot in the shape of a man. By this definition, C3PO is an android, but R2-D2 is not. But that's not the in-universe usage. – Chris B. Behrens May 14 '13 at 19:35
  • I've wondered this my whole life!!!! Still waiting for a satisfactory answer. I feel that Luke saying robots destroys the world-building because, besides that 1 instance, ROBOT is not a Star Wars thing. – RedCaio Nov 25 '15 at 2:30
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Through the six existing scripts, the only instance I can find any of the characters referring to them as "robots" is Luke in ANH:

LUKE: If they traced the robots here, they may have learned who they sold them to. And that would lead them home!

All other dialog refers to them as "droids".

Interestingly, the scripts for the original trilogy refer to them as "robots" in the script in all non-verbal instances. The prequel trilogy, however, refers to them as "droids" in all instances.

This development can probably be attributed to the fact that the term droid is trademarked by Lucasfilm, LTD.

  • The term Droid may be trademarked by Lucasfilm, but it was first used (as far as the OED knows) in a 1952 sci-fi story by Mari Wolf. – user14111 Apr 8 '15 at 21:50
  • @user14111 my point was more that Lucas needs to continue to use the trademarked term as appropriate whenever possible at the risk of the mark becoming diluted to the point that they lose the claim on it. – phantom42 Apr 8 '15 at 21:53
  • I had no point at all, I was just making an off-topic comment. (That is permitted, isn't it?) I just thought it was kind of interesting that someone had used the word "droid" long before Star Wars. – user14111 Apr 9 '15 at 9:43
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All droids are robots, but not all robots are droids. Robot is superset of Droid. Saying C3P0 and R2D2 robots is correct, but less precise. Its like calling a car a "vehicle" instead of just a car (thanks @ValekHalfHeart for the example).

Official (LucasFilm) definition of Droid: "A mechanical being with a self-aware consciousness, as distinguished from a computer by having a self-contained method of locomotion."

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    Rather than the definition of droid, I'm interested in the definition and usage of robot in the Star Wars universe. From my comment above, "I'm more curious as to how they were both referred to as robots. AFAIK, the scene mentioned in my question is the only one where the two droids are called robots. I'm curious to know if this is the only time this happens in the entire series." – coleopterist May 14 '13 at 14:32
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    @coleopterist It would be like calling a car a "vehicle" instead of just a car. It's still true, just less precise and used less often. – ApproachingDarknessFish May 14 '13 at 17:45
  • @coleopterist Updated the answer with more clarification.. – Baby Yoda May 14 '13 at 17:59
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    @coleopterist according to the scripts, there is only one scene where they are verbally called "robots" by characters, but the script refers to them as "robots" throughout. – phantom42 May 14 '13 at 18:03
  • @phantom42 Thanks. Please expand your comment into an answer. I notice that you have used the singular script; how about the other episodes? – coleopterist May 14 '13 at 18:27

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