universal translator n.

a device, computer system, etc. that (instantaneously) translates among languages

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1949 Indianapolis News 26 Aug. 5/3 (headline)

    Italian Boasts Machine as Universal Translator.

  • 1967 G. L. Coon Metamorphosis (Star Trek episode) (transcription) Gene L. Coon

    [Kirk] The universal translator on the shuttlecraft. We can try that, talk to that thing. [Spock] The translator is for use with more congruent life forms. [Kirk] Adjust it, change it…. Adjusting the translator will give you something to do.

  • 1973 J. Williamson Power of Blackness in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Dec. 75/2 page image Jack Williamson bibliography

    With a hard-won deftness, he extracted transit coupons from one folder, the visaed passport from another, gathered a medical clearance and a credit disk and a universal translator, working his way along the float until it was entering the slot between two control islands, within moments of the portal.

  • 1975 F. Joseph Star Fleet Technical Manual 03:02:04 Franz Joseph bibliography

    UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR U.F.P. STANDARD For communication between United Federation language forms and with unknown alien language forms in the Treaty exploration territory.

  • 1987 G. A. Effinger Another Dead Grandfather in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Dec. 115 page image George Alec Effinger bibliography

    I don’t speak Austrian, you know. Do you have some kind of universal translator with you or something?

  • 1999 R. Garcia y Robertson Diana by Starlight in Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar. 25 page image R. Garcia y Robertson bibliography

    This time she used the surface dialect—a combination of hoots, clicks, grunts, and glottal stops that few non-Neanderthals could twist their tongues around. But she had a universal translator in her memory chip, part of her diplomatic equipment. He stared hard at her, plainly shocked that she could talk.

  • 2015 S. Williams Translation Enigmas in Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar. 3/1 page image Sheila Williams bibliography

    Much as I’d like to believe that all humanity needs to do is pack a universal translator when negotiating with aliens, I’m pretty sure that won’t really be the case.

Research requirements

antedating 1949

Research History
Suggested by Bill Mullins, who also supplied many of the cites.

Last modified 2021-05-13 18:51:30
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.