flying saucer n.

any of various unidentified disc- or saucer-shaped objects reported as appearing in the sky, presumed to be of extraterrestrial origin; (hence) a saucer-shaped alien spacecraft

Popularized by media reports of a sighting of such objects by Kenneth Arnold (who did not originally use the term flying saucer) on 24 June 1947. The term flying saucer was in use from the 1890s to refer to a clay pigeon used in shooting sports.



  • [1930 Wichita (Kansas) Daily Times 19 June 28

    Wichitan Among Those Who Saw Meteor…. Some who saw the weird light described it as a huge comet, a flaming flying saucer, a great red glow, a ball of fire.]

  • 1947 Philadelphia Inquirer 26 June 1/4 (headline)

    Flying Saucers Puzzle Pilot…. Nine bright, saucer-like objects flying at ‘incredible’ speed at 10,000 feet altitude were reported today by Kenneth Arnold, Boise, Idaho, pilot.

  • 1947 Albuquerque Jrnl. 27 June 1 (headline)

    Flying saucer mystery deepens as eyewitness descriptions increase.

  • 1948 M. Beuscher Flying Saucer Witness in Amazing Stories Jan. 167/1 (letter) page image Marion Beuscher bibliography

    Sirs: I have just finished reading the October issue of Amazing Stories, in which you ask for ‘flying saucer’ information. [N.B.: That issue called them ‘flying discs’.] Here is what I know: On June 28, 1947, at 3 :43 P. M. my brother saw the flying saucers—about seven to ten of them—which flew directly over our house.

  • 1952 R. A. Heinlein Year of Jackpot in Galaxy Science Fiction Mar. ii. 22/1 page image Robert A. Heinlein bibliography

    Flying Saucers seemed to be landing daily in every state. Nobody had exhibited one on the ground—or had the Department of Defense sat on them? Breen was unsatisfied with the off-the-record reports he had been able to get; the alcoholic content of some of them had been high. But the sea serpent on Ventura Beach was real; he had seen it. The troglodyte in Tennessee he was not in a position to verify.

  • 1952 L. Hughes Simple Discusses News and Gets It All Confused in Chicago Defender 2 Aug. 10/7 Langston Hughes

    The only time colored folks is front page news is when there’s been a race riot and a whole lot of us have been butchered up. [...] Everybody these days is seeing flying saucers in the sky. Everybody but a Negro—all over the front pages. If a Negro did see one, I bet they wouldn’t report it. They probably won’t even let flying saucers fly over Harlem, just to keep us from seeing one.

  • 1958 G. Haugen Illegitimate Egg in Fantastic May 38/1 page image Genevieve Haugen bibliography

    It was at this moment that little Egbert thought of a solution to the whole agonizing problem. It was such a simple solution that everyone exclaimed in delight. All he did was look up at his real mother and ask, ‘Do you have room enough in your flying saucer for two extra passengers?’

  • 1963 ‘L. del Rey’ Outpost of Jupiter ii. 28 page image Lester del Rey bibliography

    ‘Are there any other stories of alien spacecraft?’ Bob asked finally. ‘I mean, like the old flying saucer accounts we studied in school?’ ‘You studied, maybe,’ Red said. ‘Nobody on the out-planets takes such courses. I thought they’d found out all about the atmospheric disturbances that caused people to think they saw flying discs.’

  • 1969 M. Z. Bradley Brass Dragon (1980) v. 85 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    That made sense, of course. And yet it seemed to leave no alternative except Win’s little green men and their flying saucer.

  • 1973 K. Vonnegut Breakfast of Champions v. 58 page image Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. bibliography

    Like so many Trout stories, it was about a tragic failure to communicate. Here was the plot: A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing.

  • 1979 D. Adams Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Galaxy i. 15 page image Douglas Adams bibliography

    Ford wished that a flying saucer would arrive soon because he knew how to flag flying saucers down and get lifts from them. He knew how to see the Marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairian dollars a day. In fact, Ford Prefect was a roving researcher for that wholly remarkable book The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  • 1986 C. Dragonwagon Dear Miss Moshki 30 page image Crescent Dragonwagon

    Right outside in the playground, over near the tetherball, a flying saucer had landed! It looked a lot like the steam table from the cafeteria, except bigger, and where the shelf to slide your trays would be, there was a big ladder. Coming down it were all these extraterrestrials! They had three legs and six arms, but the most amazing thing was they all had faces like Nancy Jane Royalt’s! Their hair looked like it was made out of curly aluminum foil, but every single one of them had a pink bow just like Nancy Jane wears! (Do you think they are related?)

  • 1993 H. Ellison Mefisto in Onyx in Omni Oct. 88/3 page image Harlan Ellison bibliography

    Go with this super nifty swell ability that gullible idiots and flying saucer assholes have been trying to prove exists for at least fifty years.

  • 1995 B. Lowry in C. Carter Truth is out There: Official Guide to The X Files (The Episodes: Season 1) 102 page image Brian Lowry bibliography

    Later they see two darting lights in the night sky, then go to the Flying Saucer Cafe—looking for ‘UFO nuts’—where Mulder sees a picture of a UFO that looks uncannily like a shot supposedly taken in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.

  • 2001 J. D. Kooistra Moment of Integrity in Analog Science Fiction & Fact Sept. 89/2 Jeffery D. Kooistra bibliography

    ‘But the idea is that you can’t let the babies play with the gun?’ ‘Essentially. But you’re not considered a baby, Captain, I assure you. We come into contact with a lot of them, though.’ ‘So what gives you the right to decide who is a baby and who isn’t?’ I asked, forgetting for a moment that I was on his flying saucer.

  • 2014 S. Coonts Saucer: Savage Planet vii. 108 Stephen Coonts bibliography

    The air force reports that a flying saucer went into orbit from central Missouri ten minutes ago.

Research requirements

antedating 1947

Research History
The earliest cite in the OED was from 8 July 1947, and we requested cites before this: Roberto Labanti sent in cites from various US local newspapers, two from 28 June and one from 29 June 1947.
Jonathan Lighter found a citation from 27 June 1947, in an AP dispatch.
Fred Shapiro submitted a cite from the Philadelphia Inquirer from 26 June 1947.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a number of cites.

Last modified 2022-08-30 19:31:03
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.