morph v. 1

intransitive (of something physical, esp. a sentient being) to change shape or form; = shapeshift v.

Senses in reference to the transformation of computer images are found from the early 1980s.

  • 1991 J. Cameron & W. Wisher Terminator 2: Judgment Day 239 page image

    It is changing, morphing, transforming into anything and everything it’s ever been so rapidly the eye can barely follow.

  • 1993 M. Bourne Being Human in Asimov’s Science Fiction Dec. 94 page image Mark Bourne bibliography

    When I opened my eyes, he had opened a big, brown pair of his own near the holoprint on the wall (a portrait of me before my morph. Red hair, toothy smile, astride my father’s shoulders. My father never morphed, and never understood my choice of vocations.)

  • 1993 M. Bourne Being Human in Asimov’s Science Fiction Dec. 100 page image Mark Bourne bibliography

    We’re going to morph together into a single bioform and move into one of the hull casings.

  • 1994 B. Sterling Heavy Weather 154 Bruce Sterling

    The critic’s head was morphing like a barber pole on the slender pillar of her tanned and elegant neck.

  • 1995 D. Naylor Last Human 170

    A symbiotic shape-shifter. Intuitively, they understand your needs and morph into the shape that most pleases you.

  • 2000 I. Banks Look to Windward 46

    It wobbled very slightly as he stepped aboard. Seats morphed and rearranged themselves for the two non-human shapes.

  • 2001 K. A. Applegate Animorphs: Sacrifice 5 K. A. Applegate

    For purposes of combat, our tails are equipped with a deadly sharp blade. But it is our ability to morph, to transform into other creatures, that makes our species the envy of the galaxy.

  • 2017 J. VanderMeer Borne ii. 93 Jeff VanderMeer bibliography

    Trailing a little behind me, Borne was a large rock that bumbled to a stop, soundless, when I looked back. Almost stealthy. [...] Soon I was no longer being followed be a rock but by a giant undulating worm [...] The lizard morphed back into a rock, close enough now that I didn’t have to shout to talk to it. ‘Borne. I can see you. You came out here with me. I know that it’s you.’ Silence. ‘Borne. You’ve been a rock, a worm, a fly, and now a lizard. Do you think I’m stupid? Even if I hadn’t brought you out here?’ The rock moved from side to side a little.

Research requirements

antedating 1991

Earliest cite

Terminator 2: The Book of the Film

Research History
Imran Ghory submitted a 1995 cite from Doug Naylor's "Last Human".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1999 reprint of Ian McDonald's 1998 "The Days of Solomon Gursky".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1995 reprint of A.A. Attanasio's "Solis"; we would like to check the 1994 first edition.
Rachel Flynn submitted a 2001 cite from K.A. Applegate's "Animorphs: The Sacrifice".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a reprint of Iain Banks' "Look To Windward"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 2000 first edition.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 2001 cite from Julian May's "Sagittarius Whorl".
Mark Bourne submitted a 1993 cite from his story "Being Human". Simon West submitted a 1991 cite from James Cameron and William Wisher's "Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Book of the Film, An Illustrated Screenplay": originally we had wanted to verity the cite from the "1990" US first printing, but the first printing is in fact from 1991, and we have that quote.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2017 cite from Jeff VanderMeer.

A number of people have suggested the animated modelling clay children's character "Morph" as a possible source of cites; his adventures were broadcast by the BBC from 1978 onwards, so we would be interested to see any pre-1991 cites from programme listings, books etc. that use "morph" to describe his shapechanging.

Damien Broderick suggested M.A. Foster's novels "The Morphodite" (1981) and its sequels "Transformer" (1983) and "Preserver" (1985) as possible sources for cites; Jesse Sheidlower checked the latter two and did not find any examples.

Last modified 2021-11-16 15:06:20
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.