sentient adj.

sapient; intelligent

  • 1920 Punch Feb. 25 150/3

    By systematic and scientific training is it possible to produce that perfect type of manhood gifted with the best powers of what we are wont to call the ‘lower orders of creation’—keen sighted and swift of motion as a bird, sharp-scented as a greyhound, faithful and acute as a dog, and full of sentient wisdom as an elephant.

  • 1932 ‘J. B. Harris’ Lost Machine in Amazing Stories Apr. 42/2 page image John Wyndham bibliography

    A touch on the lever sent the machine sinking rapidly towards a green rectangle, so regular as to suggest the work of sentient creatures.

  • 1938 R. Z. Gallun Seeds of Dusk in Astounding Science-Fiction June 79/1 Raymond Z. Gallun

    And now, perhaps, the thing was beginning to feel the first glimmerings of a consciousness, like a human child rising out of the blurred, unremembering fog of birth. Strange, oily nodules, scattered throughout its tissues, connected by means of a complex network of delicate, white threads, which had the functions of a nervous system, were developing and growing—giving to the sporeplant from Mars the equivalent of a brain. Here was a sentient vegetable in the formative stage. A sentient vegetable? Without intelligence it is likely that the ancestors of this nameless invader from across the void would long ago have lost their battle for survival.

  • 1947 G. O. Smith Kingdom of Blind in Startling Stories July 48/1 George O. Smith

    Secondly, the true schizophrenic paranoid cannot rail against a mechanistic fate. He must find some sentience to fight, some evil mind to combat. For the paranoid feels that he can win in the end, which of course would be impossible against a case of mechanistic doom. Therefore Carroll needed some sentient manifestation of this doom, something that he could strike at, fight against. Therefore he has accused an ‘alien culture’ of tampering with the records to prevent us from knowing the truth.

  • 1949 H. Kuttner Time Axis in Startling Stories Jan. xxiv. 78/1 page image Henry Kuttner bibliography

    If you can imagine a sharp tool made sentient, you may guess a little of how what followed seemed to us, who were so integral a part of the tremendous conflict, the ultimate destruction.

  • 1949 H. Kuttner Time Axis in Startling Stories Jan. xxv. 81/2 page image Henry Kuttner bibliography

    Imponderable forces shifted when that cleavage took place. You and I know nothing about it, for it happened far beyond the perceptions of any sentient creature. But it happened. Oh yes, it happened.

  • 1950 M. St. Clair Pillows in Thrilling Wonder Stories June 138/2 page image Margaret St. Clair

    In the third place—This was where Kent’s mind jibbed. Really, it was no more fantastic than the assumption he had already made, without much mental discomfort, that they could influence the flow of events. But this was something that every human being, that every sentient being, takes for granted every moment of his life. To endow the pillows with this ability was to fracture the supporting column of the Universe.

  • 1954 E. F. Russell Witness in Deep Space 64 Eric Frank Russell

    I did not trap it. I knew it was sentient and treated it as such.

  • 1976 J. L. Chalker Jungle of Stars 43 Jack L. Chalker

    He'll come like a thief in the night—and in heavy disguise. He could be anybody—or anything—at all, any sentient beastie in the galaxy.

  • 1977 B. Ash Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 334/3 Brian Ash bibliography

    But four years elapsed before Hamilton’s account of ‘The Space Visitors’ appeared in Air Wonder Stories (March 1930), with an editorial reference to ‘The Book of the Damned’ and the evidence it offered that ‘over the past 150 years there has been strange extra-terrestrial activity, presumably from sentient beings’.

  • 1985 M. W. Bonanno Dwellers in Crucible i.8 Margaret Wander Bonanno

    She had been instructed from birth in the equality of all sentient life forms.

  • 1991 D. Stabenow Second Star iv. 97 Dana Stabenow

    Caleb transferred his slack-jawed stare to the ceiling pickup, and said wonderingly, ‘He sounds almost sentient.’

  • 1992 V. Vinge Fire upon Deep xviii. 144 Vernor Vinge bibliography

    However, the vast majority of naturally evolved, sentient beings would be revolted by the notion.

  • 2000 A. Reynolds Revelation Space (2001) 437 Alastair Reynolds bibliography

    It looked like a biology lesson for gods, or a snapshot of the kind of pornography which might be enjoyed by sentient planets.

  • 2001 T. Zahn Angelmass xxviii. 264 Timothy Zahn

    ‘What would you say…if I told you I think Angelmass has become sentient?’ ‘I'd probably say you'd been working too hard…it’s a black hole. A fruitcake would have more chance of spontaneously developing sentience than it would.’

Research requirements

antedating 1920

Earliest cite

Punch magazine

Research History
Malcolm Farmer submitted a citation from a 2001 reprint of Alastair Reynolds' 2000 "Revelation Space" .
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1992 citation from Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1956 reprint of Eric Frank Russell's "The Witness".
Malcolm Farmer suggested and Jeff Prucher located a cite from a 1993 reprint of Terry Bisson's 1991 "They're Made Out Of Meat".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1976 cite from Jack L. Chalker's "A Jungle of Stars".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1965 reprint of Henry Kuttner's "The Time Axis": Fred Galvin verified this cite in its 1949 first publication.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1965 reprint of James Blish's "The Warriors of Day"; the original publication was in 1951, but we have enough evidence from this time that we don't need to verify it in this version.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1976 reprint of Larry Niven's 1970 "Ringworld".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1999 cite from Diane Duane's "Storm at Eldala".
Douglas Winston submitted a 2001 cite from David Gerrold's "Bouncing Off the Moon".
Douglas Winson submitted a 2001 cite from Timothy Zahn's "Angelmass".
Fred Galvin submitted cite from a reprint of Margaret St. Clair's 1950 "The Pillows"; we have verified this in its original publication in Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Douglas Winston submitted a 1991 cite from Dana Stabenow's "Second Star".
Fred Galvin sent in a cite from a 1957 reprint of Raymond Z. Gallun's "Seeds of the Dusk". Mike Christie verified this in the 1938 first publication.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1978 cite quoting an editorial comment to an Edmond Hamilton story: Alistair Durie verified this in the original 1930 publication.
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1984 reprint of "The Lost Machine" by John B. Harris (The real name of, and one of the several by-lines used by, the author commonly known as "John Wyndham"), which Alistair Durie verified in its 1932 first publication.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1920 cite from Punch magazine.

The OED has definitions relating to feeling or sensation, but not to intelligence.

Last modified 2023-10-28 19:13:33
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.