lifeboat n.

a small spacecraft designed for escaping from a damaged spaceship or space station; cf. lifeship n.; escape ship n.


  • 1907 H. G. Bishop On the Martian Way in Broadway Magazine 1 Nov. 153/2 H. G. Bishop bibliography

    The shining life-boat silently parted from the Trenton’s stern and floated gracefully away. They watched it as it slowly gathered headway, moving always on, on, towards where the Sun glowed. [Ibid.] The infinitesimal body lately discovered revolving as another satellite of Venus is the life-boat containing the remains of John R. Winston, who sacrificed himself to rescue the Mercantile (N.Y.) Company’s passenger boat Trenton, last June by pushing her off when she lay stranded on the ‘neutral’ between Mars and the Sun.

  • 1930 E. E. Smith Skylark Three in Amazing Stories Aug. 107/1 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    I want your thoughts, as well as your knowledge, and I’m going to have them. If you give them voluntarily, I will tinker up a lifeboat that you can navigate back to your own world and let you go; if you resist I intend getting them anyway and you shall not leave this vessel alive.

  • 1934 E. E. Smith Skylark of Valeron in Astounding Stories Sept. 39/2 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    The human beings were no longer aboard; the little lifeboat that was Skylark Two was no longer in her spherical berth.

  • 1941 T. Sturgeon Completely Automatic in Astounding Science-Fiction Feb. 86/1 page image Theodore Sturgeon bibliography

    They said that spaceships should no more take off without chem supers than they should without lifeboats. The fact that no one within the memory of living man had ever used a lifeboat for anything but joy-riding didn’t faze them.

  • 1946 A. B. Chandler Stability in Astounding Science Fiction July 143/2 page image A. Bertram Chandler bibliography

    ‘Abandon ship?’ suggested Sheridan. ‘We have to go through the hold to the lifeboat.’

  • 1956 S. Carson Seed of Tomorrow in Fantastic Universe Apr. 81/2 page image Sam Carson bibliography

    The surcharge of energy delivered in the ruthless attack had reached and crippled his lifeboat. In grim desperation he went into emergency drive. As the lifeboat drifted sluggishly he saw that all firing had ceased and that the Gerex ships were returning across space to their base. The lifeboat spiraled slowly down toward the planet.

  • 1973 A. D. Foster Bloodhype 232 Alan Dean Foster bibliography

    Do you think the shuttles and lifeboats will operate, Moorea?

  • 1991 J. G. Ballard Dream Cargoes in Omni Feb. 59/2 page image J. G. Ballard bibliography

    The moment that Galloway, with a last disgusted curse, had stepped into the freighter’s single lifeboat, he, Johnson, had become the captain of this doomed vessel.

  • 2006 Analog June 107/2

    No mere lifeboat could possibly sustain a biosphere across years of interstellar flight, so the size of Harmony’s crew had been set by the suspended-animation capacity of its lifeboats.

Research requirements

antedating 1907

Earliest cite

H. G. Bishop, "On the Martian Way"

Research History
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from a 1995 reprint of Theodore Sturgeon's "Completely Automatic"; Mike Christie verified this in the original 1941 magazine appearance.
Ralf Brown located a cite in an electronic text of Alan Dean Foster's 1973 "Bloodhype", and David Dyer-Bennet verified it in a paper copy. Fred Galvin submitted a 1950 cite from Poul Anderson's "Star Ship".
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1983 reprint of E. E. Smith's 1937-38 "Galactic Patrol"; Mike Christie verified it in the original magazine serial.
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1977 reprint of Leigh Brackett's 1944 "The Veil of Astellar".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1950 cite from Clifford D. Simak's "Time Quarry".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1956 cite from Sam Carson's "Seed of Tomorrow".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1934 cite from E. E. Smith's "The Skylark of Valeron".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1946 cite from Hal Clement's "Cold Front".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1946 cite from A. Bertram Chandler's "Stability".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1950 cite from Eric Frank Russell's "Follower".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1953 cite from William Morrison's "Divinity".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1951 cite from William Tenn's "Venus is a Man's World".

Fred Galvin submitted a 1930 cite from E.E. Smith's "Skylark Three".
Jeff Prucher found a website that quotes E.E. Smith's 1934 "Triplanetary".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1927 cite from H. G. Bishop's "On the Martian Way"; Jesse Sheidlower verified it in the original publication in Broadway Magazine.

Last modified 2022-02-26 15:13:10
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.