lightspeed n. 1

the speed of light

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1856 Chambers’s Journal 8 Mar. 149/1

    By converting twenty millions of units that are determined by periods of steam-speed, into one unit that is determined by light-speed, a new comprehensive span is obtained.

  • 1882 ‘N. Green’ Thousand Years Hence v. 109 page image Nunsowe Green bibliography

    Indeed, the vastly greater speed thus attained made us at last regard, with something like contempt, the old ordinary light-speed of about one hundred and eighty thousand miles in a second.

  • 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 1856

Earliest cite

Chambers's Journal

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.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted an 1882 cite from "Nunsowe Green".

"light speed" was added to the OED in June 2005, with a first quotation from a newspaper database. This entry was updated in December 2021, with the 1856 quotation below.

Last modified 2022-01-19 19:07:50
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.