Orwellian adj.

characteristic or suggestive of the writings of George Orwell, esp. of the totalitarian state depicted in his dystopian account of the future, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)

SF Criticism


  • 1949 St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger 4 Nov. 4/3

    Almost all the Orwellian techniques of a future totalitarianism are found here.

  • 1950 Sphere (London) 8 Apr. 44

    It is by now widely agreed, without Britain right in it, Western Europe is likely to evolve as a freak, to be eventually either German-dominated or recast in the mould of Moscow Communism (something leading to Orwellian 1984)

  • 1950 M. McCarthy Up the Ladder from Charm to Vogue in Reporter 1 Aug. in On Contrary (1961) ii. 187

    A leap into the Orwellian future.

  • 1959 N. Mailer Advertisements for Myself (1961) 309

    Virtually perfect Orwellian ambivalences—(War is Peace, Love is Hate, Ignorance is Knowledge).

  • 1986 D. Koontz Strangers i. ii. 171

    The ruling council did not admit that such a hellhole existed in the new workers' paradise—or that monstrous inquisitions were conducted within its walls. In true Orwellian tradition, because the four-story complex of cells and torture chambers had no name, it did not exist.

  • 2001 Dreamwatch Mar. 24/1

    Communications systems like television and Orwellian snooping devices are working just fine.

Research requirements

antedating 1949

Earliest cite

local Vermont newspaper

Research History
Stephen Goranson submitted a 1950 cite from The Sphere.
Fred Shapiro submitted a 1949 cite from a local newspaper, found on the newspapers.com database.

Last modified 2021-01-14 12:27:31
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.