Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction

Welcome to the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. This work-in-progress is a comprehensive quotation-based dictionary of the language of science fiction. The HD/SF is an offshoot of a project begun by the Oxford English Dictionary (though it is no longer formally affiliated with it). It is edited by Jesse Sheidlower. Please explore the menu links to learn more.

Order by: alphabetical | chronological

Word Definition
3-di n. (No cites) see three-D n.
3V n. (No cites) see tri-v n.
actifan n. (1941) someone who is actively involved in fandom
adamantium n. (1912) a metal alloy having exceptional strength
adult fantasy n. (1932) fantasy intended for adults rather than children
aerocab n. (1908) = aircab n.
aerocar n. (1900) a small, personal flying vehicle
Africanfuturism n. (2018) Nnedi Okorafor’s term for: a subgenre of science fiction that heavily features elements of African history or culture; cf. Afrofuturism
Afrofuturism n. (1993) a movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science-fictional themes which incorporate elements of Black (American) history and culture
Afrofuturist adj. (1994) of, relating to, or characterized by Afrofuturism n.
Afrofuturistic adj. (2000) = Afrofuturist adj.
AI n. (1973) a sentient computer; = artificial intelligence n.
aircab n. (1934) a flying taxicab; cf. earlier aerocab n.
aircar n. (1871) = aerocar n.
airlock n. (1930) a small intermediate compartment with controlled pressure and two airtight doors, used to facilitate movement between the interior and exterior of a spacecraft; (also) either of the doors to such a compartment; cf. space lock n.
Aldebaranian n. 1 (1930) a native or inhabitant of the Aldebaran system
Aldebaranian n. 2 (1939) the language of Aldebaranians
Aldebaranian adj. (1937) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Aldebaran system or its inhabitants
alien n. (1820) an (intelligent) being from a location other than one’s own, esp. such a being that is not from Earth
alien adj. (1919) of or pertaining to an (intelligent) being or beings from another planet; that derives from another world
alien life form n. (1937) = alien n.
Alpha Centaurian n. (1931) a native or inhabitant of the Alpha Centauri star system; cf. Centaurian n. 1
Alpha Centaurian adj. (1934) of or relating to the Alpha Centauri star system or its inhabitants; cf. Centaurian adj.
alternate future n. (1941) in time-travel contexts: one of a number of possible futures; cf. slightly earlier alternative future n.
alternate history n. (1954) a timeline that is different from that of our own world, usually extrapolated from the changing of a single event; the subgenre featuring such a timeline; (also) a story featuring this
alternate reality n. (1950) = alternate world n.
alternate universe n. (1950) = alternate world n.
alternate world n. (1944) one of many possible universes, which may have different physical laws or a different history than our own
alternative future n. (1932) = alternate future n.