1883, in reference to electric traction cars, from French automobile (adj.), 1861, a hybrid from Greek autos "self" (see auto-) + French mobile "moving," from Latin mobilis "movable" (see mobile (adj.)).
"self-propelled motor vehicle," 1895, from French automobile, short for véhicule automobile (see automobile (adj.)). The modern Greek calls it autokineto "moved of itself." The French word had competition in the early years from locomobile; in English other early forms were motorcar and autocar.