The word "robot" comes from a 1921 Czech play, "Rossum's Universal Robots" (Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti). This science fiction play took place in a factory where "robots" made out of synthetic organic matter were put to work as laborers on factory lines. Yet, because they were made out of organic materials, these mechanical men developed feelings and rebelled against humanity, leading to the great extinction of mankind.
The playwright responsible, Karl Capek, credited his brother Josef, an artist, with coining the term. It derives from the Czech word for serf labor or hard work (robota).
Robota or a variant of it is used in many different Slavic languages for work. It can be found in Bulgarian, Russian, Serbo/ Croatian, Polish, Macedonian, and Ukranian. When translated into English, the word generally means "work," but in some cases implies "slave work."
The idea of robots taking over is a story line that has since been used in many science fiction plays, books, and movies, with the Terminator films being perhaps the most famous. "Rossum's Universal Robots" was itself made into a short movie (1938), a movie (1948), and a TV episode (1953).
These fears have not stopped us imagining new roles for robots. A robot soccer league, RoboCup (http://www.robocup.org), is celebrating its twentieth year. And a robot cop has become part of the patrol force at The Dubai Mall.