super-weapon n.

a weapon, esp. an extremely destructive one, based on highly advanced technology


  • [1918 Huddersfield Daily Examiner 14 June 3/2

    Regarding the tanks, the speaker declared that the trust of the country in those super-weapons was not misplaced.]

  • 1931 R. Baldwin Letter in Astounding Stories July 132/2 page image

    An old, old idea, and quite a commonly used one, is to have these creatures about to declare war and conquer the hero’s country with the enemy’s super-weapons; and after capturing our brave, bold, and heroic heroes, proceed to tell the heroes the way the weapons work, the zero hour set for attack, and the line of march of the enemy’s armies (as if prisoners are told all these things!).

  • 1937 ‘E. Binder’ Conquest of Life in Thrilling Wonder Stories Aug. 39/1 Otto Binder bibliography

    ‘Haven’t they had enough of it?’ he cried. ‘They fought like beasts for a decade just thirty years ago. I was tempted then to reveal my super-weapon and let them butcher one another to nothingness. I am tempted now.’

  • 1939 E. E. Smith Robot Nemesis in Thrilling Wonder Stories June 74/1 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    And, so far, there has not been another battle. Neither side dares attack the other; each is waiting for the development of some super-weapon which will give it the overwhelming advantage necessary to insure victory upon a field of action so far from home. But as yet no such weapon has been developed; and indeed, so efficient are the various Secret Services involved, the chance of either side perfecting such a weapon unknown to the other is extremely slim.

  • 1940 ‘R. Willey’ Fog in Astounding Science Fiction Dec. 86/1 page image Willy Ley bibliography

    Even if there were a superweapon that would help the remnants of one army to defeat the remnants of all others, the country that got the plans could not manufacture that weapon.

  • 1948 R. Clagett Letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories Apr. 129/2 page image

    So the scientist destroys his super weapon. Has he accomplished anything? I think not. Somebody else is bound to make the same discovery soon.

  • 1950 K. Vonnegut Report on the Barnhouse Effect in R. Heinlein Tomorrow, The Stars (1952) 60 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. bibliography

    Gentlemen…. As the first superweapon with a conscience, I am removing myself from your national defense stockpile. Setting a new precedent in the behavior of ordnance, I have humane reasons for going off.

  • 1951 T. Sturgeon Traveling Crag in Fantastic Adventures July 110/2 page image Theodore Sturgeon bibliography

    Now, a cargo ship was travelling between galaxies on hyperspatial drive. In a crazy, billion-to-one odds accident, it emerged into normal space smack in the middle of a planetoid. It wasn’t a big one; the ship wasn’t atomized—just wrecked. It was carrying one of these super-weapons.

  • 1953 L. S. de Camp Science Fiction Handbook 16 L. Sprague de Camp

    The Martians are conquering the earth with their heat-rays and other super-weapons when they succumb to Terran bacteria.

  • 1959 S. Palmer Derelict in Fantastic Universe Mar. 83/2 page image Stuart Palmer (1905-1968) bibliography

    And so it was that the vast Centaurian ship, armed to the teeth with super-weapons that could have brought our world to its knees in a week or less, turned tail and blasted hell-bent back to the safer spaceways of its own system. It was, after all, a matter of obvious expediency. A normal man, an average man, does not match brains with an Einstein. No Centaurian aboard doubted the wisdom, the absolute necessity, of the decision to retreat before it was too late.

  • 1978 C. Kilian Empire of Time (1985) 125 Crawford Kilian bibliography

    No alien invaders would pounce out of space. There was no need now for superweapons against Outsiders.

  • 1994 B. Bova Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells ix. 80 Ben Bova bibliography

    They usually have an evil scientist in their gang, or…the benefits of futuristic science, such as superweapons, hypnotic rays, invisible spaceships or whatnot.

  • 2005 P. F. Hamilton Judas Unchained xi. 516 Peter F. Hamilton

    There had been quiet rumours about what the frigates would be armed with back at the assembly platform and the town. Superweapons capable of protecting the fleet from any threat.

  • 2005 I. M. Banks Algebraist ii. 135 Iain M. Banks

    Hey, I'm a human being but I'm twenty thousand light years from home and we're all living in the midst of mad-shit aliens and super-weapons and the whole fucking bizarre insane swirl of galactic history and politics!

Research requirements

antedating 1931

Earliest cite

Robert Baldwin, Letter, in Astounding.

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a 1940 cite from Robert Willey's "Fog".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1959 cite from Stuart Palmer's "Derelict".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1948 cite from a letter from D. B. Thompson in Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1953 cite from L. Sprague de Camp's "Science-Fiction Handbook".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1956 cite from Wallace West's "The Time-Lockers".
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1983 reprint of Kurt Vonnegut's 1950 story "Report on the Barnhouse Effect"; Jesse Sheidlower found an earlier version in the 1952 Robert Heinlein anthology "Tomorrow, the Stars". We would still like to verify this in the original 1950 printing (Collier's, 11 Feb.)
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1950 reprint of E.E. Smith's "Robot Nemesis" and later verified it in its original publication in the June 1939 Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1978 reprint of Theodore Sturgeon's 1951 story "The Travelling Crag"; Jesse Sheidlower verified it in the original publication, in Fantastic Adventures.
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1985 reprint of Crawford Kilian's "The Empire of Time".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1937 cite from "Conquest of Life" by Eando Binder (pseudonym of Otto Binder)
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from the Project Gutenberg text of Astounding Stories, July, 1931: this has now been verified against page images of the original print publication (a letter from Robert Baldwin)
Simon Koppel submitted a 1918 cite, in reference to tanks.

Last modified 2023-10-12 14:41:57
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.