sentience n. 1

the condition of being sentient; intelligence; cf. sapience n.

  • 1931 J. Williamson Stone from Green Star in Amazing Stories Nov. ix. 739/2 page image Jack Williamson bibliography

    ‘We are dealing with an utterly alien world,’ Midos Ken said several times. ‘There is sentience here—but sentience in no familiar body. We must be prepared to deal with manifestations of intelligence that are unfamiliar or even inconceivable to the human mind.’

  • 1937 J. Williamson Released Entropy in Astounding Stories Aug. 23/1 page image Jack Williamson bibliography

    A cold cloud of darkness followed after him, implacable in its alien sentience.

  • 1946 ‘P. Latham’ Blindness in Astounding Science Fiction July 128/1 R. S. Richardson bibliography

    There is evidence that inorganic matter possesses a certain degree of sentience; that is, the atom may have consciousness and will, and therefore in a limited sense the power to control its own destiny.

  • 1949 ‘R. Lafayette’ Emperor of Universe in Startling Stories Nov. 134/1 L. Ron Hubbard

    His writings, even if they were entirely disregarded in his lifetime, demonstrate an enormous command of the problems of inter-system government. They show a sentience on the subject of politics which one regrets is not general amongst our modern gentry.

  • 1954 P. Anderson Brain Wave xx. 120 Poul Anderson bibliography

    Corinth’s memory went back over what he had seen, the mountains and oceans and forests of whole worlds, the life which blossomed in splendor or struggled only to live, and the sentience which had arisen to take blind nature in hand.

  • 1969 A. McCaffrey Dramatic Mission in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact June 64/2 Anne McCaffrey

    She knew nothing of these Beta Corviki, but it was a convention among all the sophisticated societies she had encountered that sentience was not permitted to waste itself. Kira Falernova had found it excessively difficult to commit suicide.

  • 1976 J. L. Chalker Jungle of Stars 39 Jack L. Chalker

    When you died, your body stayed behind—but the sentience, the animator part of you, did not. This ‘self‘—the soul, if you will, although robbed of its religious connotations—is basically electrical.

  • 1992 V. Vinge Fire upon Deep xxv. 187 Vernor Vinge bibliography

    Four or five billion years ago, someone built the first skrodes and raised the first Riders to sentience.

  • 2000 A. Reynolds Revelation Space (2001) 448 Alastair Reynolds bibliography

    They might have been alien in their biology, inspiring a kind of visceral revulsion simply because they were so far from what the human mind considered the right and proper form for sentience.

  • 2001 D. Gerrold Bouncing Off Moon 307 David Gerrold

    Intelligence exists as the ability to recognize patterns. Self-awareness is intelligence recognizing the patterns of its own self. Sentience is the ownership of that awareness—the individual begins to function as the source, not the effect of his own perceptions. Even being able to speak of sentience in such a context is evidence of it.

  • 2011 C. Miéville Embassytown 66 page image China Miéville bibliography

    A limited empathy might be taught and drugged and tech-linked in between two people, but that wouldn’t have been enough. The Ambassadors were created and bought up to be one, with unified minds. They had the same genes but much more: it was the minds those carefully nurtured genes made that the Hosts could hear. If you raised them right, taught them to think of themselves right, wired them with links, then they could speak Language, with close enough to one sentience that the Ariekei could understand it.

Research requirements

antedating 1931

Earliest cite

Jack Williamson, in Amazing Stories

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".
Douglas Winston submitted a 2001 citation from David Gerrold's "Bouncing Off the Moon".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1970 reprint of Ann McCaffrey's "Dramatic Mission"; Mike Christie verified this in the original 1969 publication.
Douglas Winston submitted a 2001 cite from Timothy Zahn's "Angelmass".
Douglas Winston submitted a 2000 cite from Lisanne Norman's "Stronghold Rising".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1991 cite from Dana Stabenow's "Second Star".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1974 reprint of Poul Anderson's "Brain Wave" which Mike Christie verified in the 1954 first publication.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1949 cite from Rene LaFayette's (pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard), "The Emperor of the Universe".
Fred Galvin submitted cites from Philip Latham's "The Blindness" (1946).
Fred Galvin submitted a 1937 cite from Jack Williamson's "Released Entropy".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2011 cite from China Miéville's "Embassytown".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 1931 cite from Jack Williamson.

(OED definition has the sense of having feeling or sensation, but not intelligence.)

Last modified 2021-12-15 14:17:23
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.