Hamilton Transportation & Cars: Why Is It Called An 'Automobile'?
Today personal vehicles are called either a "car" or an "automobile", thought in the first US patent for steam-powered land carriage (1792, Oliver Evans) it was called an "oruktor amphibolos". In the 1500s, and Itlanian painter, Matini, devised a handcrank-powered carriage, that required one person per wheel to crank in unison. Instead of naming the invention for himself, he chose to go to combine the Greek word, "auto," (self) and the Latin word, "mobils," (moving). "Car" comes from an ancient Celtic word, "carrus," meaning cart or wagon (the German word "karre" has the same pronunciation and meaning)
In 1879 a US patent for a "road machine" was granted to George B. Selden, a Rochester, NY attorney. In the mid 1890s, the Duryea brothers called their products "motor wagons" and in 1896, Henry Ford introduced his experimental car, which he calle the "Quadricycle." Newspapers at the time used a variety of words like autometon, autobaine, automotor horse, autokenetic, buggyaut, diamote, motor-vique, oleo locomotive, motor carriage, motorig, mocole, and, of course, the horseless carriage. In 1895, the publisher of the Chicago Times-Herald offered a $500 prize for the best name for the motorized vehicles, and the judges picked "motorcycle", with "Quadricycle" and "petrocar" not far behind, and the word "automobile" wasn't even a close finisher. By 1897, The New York Times forecast, "...the new mechanical wagon with the awful name -- automobile...has come to stay..."
As much as Americans take credit for many parts of the automobile, many of the words that are associated with automobiles come from the French, including garage, chauffeur, limousine, and chassis. Likewise many types of cars are named from the French, including sedan, coupe, and cabriolet.