sapient adj.

of an alien or machine: intelligent; having human-like intelligence



  • 1935 B. Olsen Who Deserves Credit? in Amazing Stories Feb. 81 page image Bob Olsen bibliography

    When EXPLORATION blazed through space…And found men, sapient, on Mars, He gained renown’s most honored place.

  • 1953 T. Cogswell Minimum Sentence in Galaxy Science Fiction 122/2 page image Theodore R. Cogswell bibliography

    ‘I ain’t paid to get lectured by cockroaches.’ ‘Is, one, inaccurate statement—terrestrial cockroach is not sapient being. Is, two obviously hostile manifestation.’

  • 1962 H. B. Piper Naudsonce in Analog Science Fact-Science Fiction Jan. 9/1 H. Beam Piper

    It was inhabited by a sapient humanoid race, and some of them were civilized enough to put it in Class V, and Colonial Office doctrine on Class V planets was rigid.

  • 1968 R. Silverberg Man in Maze in If Apr. 15/2 Robert Silverberg

    Because the dragon wore protective clothing, and so was sapient? Sapient corpses were deliberately allowed to remain, Muller realized.

  • 1970 L. Niven Ringworld (1976) 73 Larry Niven

    Speaker, no sapient being ever interrupts a defense mechanism.

  • 1979 M. Z. Bradley & P. E. Zimmer Survivors (1989) 7 Marion Zimmer Bradley Paul Edwin Zimmer bibliography

    There were several hundred planets in the Unity—and nearly as many more outside it—bearing sapient life; and over a hundred of them must have been represented in the crowds below.

  • 1982 S. Cooper Black Fire ix.178 Sonni Cooper bibliography

    The cataclysmic events should have destroyed all sapient life on the planet.

  • 1983 D. Brin Startide Rising 104 David Brin

    The chimp scientist grimaced. His lips curled back to display an array of large, yellowed, buck teeth. At the moment, in spite of the enlarged globe of his cranium, his outthrust jaw, and his opposable thumbs, he looked more like an angry ape than a sapient scientist.

  • 1986 J. M. Dillard Demons i. 30 J. M. Dillard

    Vulcans dreamed, of course—most sapient creatures do.

  • 1999 A. D. Foster Phylogenesis (2000) 263 Alan Dean Foster

    The poet’s eyes rose to fix the surviving biped in their multilenticular stare. ‘I don’t mean that. I mean that two sapient beings are dead.’

  • 2000 P. Anderson Genesis 161 Poul Anderson bibliography

    Besides fellow humans he worked closely with sapient machines, and some of them got to be friends too, of an eerie kind.

  • 2003 L. Niven Ones Who Stay Home in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Jan. 78/1 Larry Niven

    Most sapient species can’t travel. They would need life support so extensive that they could not perceive the Universe beyond.

  • 2012 C. Willrich Star Soup in Asimov’s Science Fiction Sept. 37 page image Chris Willrich bibliography

    I do not worry…. Worry is for sapient beings, and I am not sapient. You are projecting your own nature on to me…. I am a machine.

Research requirements

antedating 1935

Earliest cite

Bob Olsen, in Amazing Stories

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a 2003 cite from Larry Niven's "The Ones Who Stay Home".
Michael Dolbear submitted a 1998 cite from David Weber's "More Than Honor".
Michael Dolbear submitted a cite from a 1989 reprint of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Paul Edwin Zimmer's "The Survivors"; we would like to check the 1979 first edition.
Douglas Winston submitted a 1983 cite from David Brin's "Startide Rising"; Mike Christie verified that the cite does not appear in the 1981 magazine version.
Douglas Winston submitted a 1992 cite from Allen Steele's "Labyrinth of Night".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 2000 reprint of Alan Dean Foster's 1999 "Phylogenesis".
Douglas Winston submitted a 2000 cite from Poul Anderson's "Genesis".
Ralf Brown located and Mike Christie submitted a 1968 cite from Robert Silverberg's "The Man in the Maze".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1976 reprint of Larry Niven's 1970 "Ringworld".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1962 cite from H. Beam Piper's "Naudsonce".
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1935 cite from Bob Olsen in Amazing Stories.
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1953 cite from Theodore Cogswell in Galaxy.

Last modified 2021-01-24 14:09:00
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.