lightspeed n. 1

the speed of light

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1914 Frederick (Maryland) Post 25 Feb. 6/6

    Measuring light speed. Even in this speed mad age we can never hope to equal the speed of light.

  • 1931 R. H. Wilson Out Around Rigel in Astounding Stories Dec. 301/2 page image Robert H. Wilson bibliography

    I’ll stick at twenty-five times light speed and slow down after we get there by taking an orbit.

  • 1932 J. W. Campbell Invaders from the Infinite in Amazing Stories Quarterly Spring 148/1 John W. Campbell, Jr. bibliography

    The skilful hands at the controls were turning adjustments now, and that disc of flame seemed to leap toward him with a hundred light-speeds, growing to a disc as large as a dime in an instant, while the myriad points of the stars seemed to scatter like frightened chickens, fleeing from the growing sun, out of the screen.

  • 1940 ‘R. Rocklynne’ Into Darkness in Astonishing Stories June 61/1 Ross Rocklynne

    Far past in the gone ages of our race, we were pitiful, tiny blobs of energy which crept along at less than light speed.

  • 1941 A. E. van Vogt Not First in Astounding Science Fiction Apr. 105/1 A. E. van Vogt

    Just how far the madness would carry on, whether it would end at the point of light speed, only time would tell.

  • 1944 ‘H. Clement’ Trojan Fall in Astounding Science Fiction June 58/1 Hal Clement

    She had the required two second-order converters, either capable of holding the ship, and six hundred tons of additional mass in the necessary condition for interstellar flight above light-speed.

  • 1964 B. Bova Interstellar Flight in Amazing Stories Jan. 35/2 page image Ben Bova

    What about light[-]speed ships?

  • 1986 ‘C. J. Cherryh’ Chanur’s Homecoming 227 C. J. Cherryh

    A lightspeed message proliferated through ship relays.

  • 1991 A. McCaffrey & E. Moon Generation Warriors 331 Anne McCaffrey Elizabeth Moon bibliography

    The more massive yacht, with its limited drive system, could not possibly outmaneuver a Fleet shuttle as long as it stayed below lightspeed.

  • 1994 U. K. Le Guin Fisherman of Inland Sea Introd. 7 Ursula K. Le Guin

    If we're going to a world a hundred light-years from here at near lightspeed, we spend according to our own perceptions, only a few minutes doing so and arrive only a few minutes older.

  • 2017 R. Solomon An Unkindness of Ghosts xxiii. 287 Rivers Solomon bibliography

    The siluminium underwent a special reaction to allow Matilda to travel at velocities approaching light-speed, and that reaction stopped when the ship had to come to a halt.

Research requirements

antedating 1914

Earliest cite

newspaper database

Research History
Imran Ghory submitted a cite from the introduction to a reprint of Ursula Le Guin's "A Fisherman of the Inland Sea"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1994 first edition.
Douglas Winston submitted a 1972 cite from Alan Dean Foster's "The Tar-Aiym Krang".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1995 reprint of David Brin's 1980 "Sundiver".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1991 cite from Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon's "Generation Warriors".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1986 cite from C. J. Cherryh's "Chanur's Homecoming".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1976 reprint of Larry Niven's "Ringworld"; Treesong verified the cite in the 1970 first edition.
Mike Christie submitted a 1958 cite from Poul Anderson's "We Have Fed Our Sea."
Mike Christie submitted a 1949 cite from editorial material by John Campbell in Astounding.
Mike Christie submitted a 1944 cite from Hal Clement's "Trojan Fall".
Mike Christie submitted a 1941 cite from A.E. van Vogt's "Not The First". Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1975 reprint of Robert H. Wilson's "Out Around Rigel"; Greg Weeks confirmed this in its 1931 first publication.
Fred Galvin submitted a cite for "light speed" from a 1983 reprint of Ross Rocklynne's "Into the Darkness", which Alistair Durie verified in its 1940 first publication.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2017 cite from Rivers Solomon.

"light speed" was added to the OED in June 2005, with a first quotation from a newspaper database.

Last modified 2021-04-27 20:35:52
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.