starship n.

a spaceship capable of interstellar travel

In the 1882 quotation, from a work of spiritualism whose author claimed it was produced by automatic writing; the ships in question travel in spiritual realms between heaven and earth.

SF Encyclopedia


  • [1882 J. B. Newbrough Oahspe 97/2

    For three days and nights Sue held his star-ship to the wonderful task of mastering by the marvelous scene.]

  • 1926 R. Quiex War in Space in Boys' Magazine 16 Oct. 30/1

    Before they quarrelled, the two scientists invented a wonderful projectile, capable of travelling through the millions of miles of ether that separated Ikon and the world, swearing a solemn vow that neither would use it except in the interests of the earthmen. But crazy, planning diabolical schemes of world rulership, Swarfsmidt travelled, aboard his starship, to Ikon, where he obtained supreme power.

  • 1930 ‘F. J. Bridge’ War Lord of Venus in Wonder Stories Sept. 296/1 page image Frank J. Brueckel, Jr. bibliography

    I absolutely forbid you to publish the details concerning the ultra-violet ray which will be the propulsive power of the star-ship.

  • 1947 E. Hamilton Star of Life in Startling Stories Jan. 24/2 page image Edmond Hamilton bibliography

    In each solar system there are a handful of Vramen who keep constant check, by means of super-radiolocator devices, over every star-ship that arrives at or departs from that system.

  • 1961 F. Leiber Big Time (1969) 73 Fritz Leiber

    A lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific and a starship between galaxies are not in it for loneliness.

  • 1967 D. C. Fontana Memo 8 Aug. in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ (1968) ii. i. 163 D. C. Fontana bibliography

    We have, in the course of a season and a half, established that Star Fleet includes 12 ships of the starship class.

  • 1972 M. Z. Bradley Darkover Landfall xi. 106 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    But he hadn’t been prepared to be cut off from the mainstream of Earth—no starships, no contact or communication with the rest of the Galaxy, perhaps for generations, perhaps forever.

  • 1977 O. S. Card in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Aug. 118/1 Orson Scott Card

    On his first day Ender Wiggin was taught about the ansible and what it meant to warfare. It meant that even though the starships of today’s battles were launched a hundred years ago, the commanders of the starships were men of today, who used the ansible to send messages to the computers and the few men on each ship. The ansible sent words as they were spoken, orders as they were made. Battleplans as they were fought. Light was a pedestrian.

  • 1983 M. Z. Bradley Thendara House (1991) i. 15 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    You know, and I knew before I had been here a tenday, that Russ Montray is no more fit to be Legate…than I am to pilot a starship!

  • 1985 S. Sucharitkul Alien Swordmaster ii. vi. 39 S. P. Somtow bibliography

    The two enemy starships that were left had slowed their fire now.

  • 1987 D. Brin Uplift War 306 David Brin

    Sam Tenance was a starship pilot who stopped at Garth every five years or so, one of Megan’s three spacer husbands.

  • 1990 I. Watson Flies of Memory i. 45 Ian Watson

    A country run by mysticism might launch Armageddon against an alien starship if they believed it held the Antichrist.

  • 1992 A. Steele Labyrinth of Night 72 Allen Steele bibliography

    Although a starship has never been found, circumstantial evidence suggests that it was dismantled and that the Cooties did not leave our Solar System again.

  • 1995 D. W. Smith & K. K. Rusch Star Trek Voyager: Escape xxi. 207 Dean Wesley Smith Kristine Kathryn Rusch bibliography

    Starship? They called these things starships. The word evoked night skies filled with stars, warm jungle air around him, and birds chirping in nearby trees. Some poetry, then, to these people.

  • 1995 A. Thomson Color of Distance (1999) viii. 85 Amy Thomson

    Radio and starships were beyond the scope of these aliens' lives.

  • 2004 P. F. Hamilton Pandora’s Star iii. 76 Peter F. Hamilton

    With Nigel’s blessing, CST had started practical design work on the starship three days earlier.

  • 2019 Y. H. Lee Dragon Pearl iv. 32 Yoon Ha Lee bibliography

    I’d seen views of it from orbit on the news services: a glitter-mass of silver and gold rising from the darker ruddy plateau on which the city had been built, the needle-flash of starships arcing to and from the spaceport.

Research requirements

antedating 1926

Earliest cite

Raymond Quiex, "The War in Space"

Research History
John Eggeling submitted a 1926 cite from the magazine serialization of Raymond Quiex's "The War in Space"

Fred Galvin found a number of references to star-ships in an online edition of John Ballou Newbrough's "Oahspe, A Kosmon Bible in the Words of Jehovih and his Angel Ambassadors", first published in 1882. However, the word is not used in quite the SF sense, as the ships referred to in the book appear to travel in spiritual realms between Heaven and Earth. Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2019 cite from Yoon Ha Lee.

We would still like to see any cites for the SF sense from before 1926.

Last modified 2021-03-31 21:47:08
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.