alien n.

an (intelligent) being from a location other than one’s own, esp. such a being that is not from Earth

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1820 T. Carlyle in T. Carlyle & J. W. Carlyle Coll. Lett. (1970) I. 286

    I am like a being thrown from another planet on this dark terrestrial ball, an alien, a pilgrim among its possessors.

  • 1917 E. R. Burroughs Princess of Mars xii. 118 page image Edgar Rice Burroughs bibliography

    Your position is a peculiar one…you are a prisoner and yet you give commands which must be obeyed; you are an alien and yet you are a Tharkian chieftain; you are a midget and yet you can kill a mighty warrior with one blow of your fist.

  • 1931 N. Schachner & A. L. Zagat Venus Mines, Incorporated in Wonder Stories Aug. 307/1 Arthur Leo Zagat Nat Schachner

    Arnim and Britt watched the ten-foot tall aliens stride across the short stretch of deck to the entrance lock of their own vessel. Around the waist of each a studded belt was clamped, its excresences showing where the individual gravity coils were inserted. Were it not for these the Martians would have been rising a hundred feet with each step, so small was the asteroid’s attraction.

  • 1934 P. Barshovsky One Prehistoric Night in Wonder Stories Nov. 697/1 Philip Barshofsky bibliography

    Nearby, a group of intelligent aliens were cutting small growth and testing them with many forms of apparatus.

  • 1942 ‘H. Clement’ Impediment in Astounding Science Fiction Aug. 108/2 page image Hal Clement bibliography

    Both aliens had seen him before, but only at a considerable distance. Talker’s chief surprise at the human form was that a being should support a mass about four times his own, against the relatively enormous gravity of Earth, on but two legs—though the legs, it is true, resembled tree trunks when compared to the stalklike limbs of the visitors.

  • 1947 A. E. van Vogt in Fantasy Book 1 41/2 A. E. van Vogt

    When an alien arrives on an inhabited planet, there is usually only one way he can pass among the intelligent beings on that planet without being recognized for what he is.

  • 1954 C. Oliver Let Me Live in a House in Universe Science Fiction Mar. 44/1 page image Chad Oliver bibliography

    The trouble is…that you have a word, ‘alien,’ and no concept to go with it. You persist in reducing me to non-alien terms, and I assure you that I will not reduce. I am, by definition, not human.

  • 1965 F. Pohl in Worlds of If Dec. 4/2 page image Frederik Pohl

    Every science-fiction magazine contains stories about visiting other stars and the confrontations between Earthmen and aliens.

  • 1984 D. Brin Practice Effect i.iii.11 David Brin bibliography

    They stared at each other—Earthman and alien.

  • 1989 D. Koontz Midnight i. xxx. 127 Dean R. Koontz bibliography

    If the problem was aliens from another world, Father Castelli would not be protected.

  • 1990 ‘J. Tiptree, Jr.’ Color of Neanderthal Eyes 2 page image James Tiptree, Jr. bibliography

    The aliens I was dealing with had complicated, irritable, niggling minds.

  • 2001 S. Sawicki Invisible Friends in Absolute Magnitude Spring 43/1 page image Steven Sawicki bibliography

    There we were, the damned alien and I, me with my ouzi [sic] and he with his alien zapper, taking aim on a particularly slimy and fat slug.

  • 2015 S. Palmer Tuesdays in Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar. 18 page image Suzanne Palmer bibliography

    It took off real fast, just like that…. Didn’t land. Wouldn’t that have been a hoot, a bunch of fucking aliens coming down for pie? But they didn’t. I always wanted to see an alien.

  • 2021 N. Okorafor Remote Control ii. 38 Nnedi Okorafor bibliography

    ‘Do you believe in aliens?’ he asked. Fatima shook her head. ‘Me, neither,’ he said. ‘But the LifeGen Corporation does and they can locate and track things using satellite and radar. Things like that odd meteor shower two years ago. [...]’

Research requirements

interdating 1820-1917

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a cite from a 1977 reprint of Philip Barshovsky's story "One Prehistoric Night" from the 1934 Wonder Stories
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a 1968 reprint of A.E. van Vogt's "The Cataaaaa"; Derek Hepburn verified this in the 1947 first edition.
Christopher Pound located some references to stories which use the word in the title: Mike Christie located one of them, a 1951 cite from J.T. McIntosh's story "When Aliens Meet".
Mark Olson submitted a 1942 cite from Hal Clement's "Impediment".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1935 cite from Eando Binder's "The Robot Aliens".
Mark English submitted a cite from a reprint of an 1820 letter by Thomas Carlyle.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1931 cite from Nathan Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat's "Venus Mines, Incorporated". We would like to see cites from between 1820 and 1931.
Lerida Arnold submitted a cite from a 1920 reprint of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars"; Jesse Sheidlower verified this in the first printing of the novel (1917), but we would like to verify this in the original magazine serialization (in All-Story magazine, various dates in 1912)

Earliest cite in the OED: 1953.

Last modified 2022-09-02 17:11:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.