sophont n.

an intelligent being

[< Greek elements meaning ‘wise being’; coined by Karen Anderson, wife of writer Poul Anderson, according to an email from Karen Anderson to this project]

  • 1966 P. Anderson Trouble Twisters (1967) 56 Poul Anderson bibliography

    Likewise with the psychology of intelligent species. Most sophonts indeed possess basic instincts which diverge more or less from man’s. With those of radically alien motivations we have little contact.

  • 1968 P. Anderson Satan’s World in Analog Science Fiction/Fact May 28/2 Poul Anderson bibliography

    From Lunograd, the Hotel Universe challenges a galaxy: ‘No oxygen-breathing sophont exists for whom we cannot provide suitable accommodation.’

  • 1973 J. Russ in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Feb. 27/1

    The book’s message seems to be that one ought to consider unhuman sophonts (‘animaloids’) one’s brothers; that is why a horse-like sophont, the one individualized alien in the book, is told ‘there, there, old fellow’ and patted on the neck.

  • 1980 D. Brin Sundiver ii. iv. 46 David Brin bibliography

    Homo sapiens—just as every other known race of sophonts—was part of a chain of genetic and cultural uplifting that stretched back to the fabled early days of the galaxy.

  • 1992 V. Vinge Fire upon Deep i. vii. 46 Vernor Vinge bibliography

    She’d already told Grondr her misgivings about this ‘selling’ of a sophont.

  • 1992 E. Bes Shahar Darktraders 15 Rosemary Edghill bibliography

    We went wayaways to a place with ‘personal and private place for very important sophont’ stamped all over it in Intersign glyphs.

  • 1996 Interzone Jan. 46/2

    Interstellar cooperation and competition is based on music. It’s the one arena in which all the multiform and multi-skilled sophonts can find common ground.

  • 1996 S. M. Stirling Drakon 7 S. M. Stirling

    The Cygnus Nine probe had reported in, and there was not only a habitable planet, but an intelligent species on it. That made her flip the aircraft up, let it do the piloting and take notice; that was only the second race of sophonts found so far, in scores of systems.

  • 1996 W. Read in Analog Science Fiction & Fact Nov. 80/2

    One lineage of avians has produced Epona’s sophont, the uther. Singularly the most fascinating physiological trait of the species is the interdependence of the parent and neonate.

  • 2012 P. Di Filippo On Books in Asimov’s Science Fiction Mar. 107/2 page image Paul Di Filippo

    Soon we have also picked up other famous personages from the series: David Falkayn…and dragon-like sophont Adzel.


Research requirements

antedating 1967

Earliest cite

P. Anderson 'The Trouble Twisters'

Research History
Eric Raymond submitted a 1968 cite from Poul Anderson's "Satan's World".
Malcom Farmer submitted a cite from a 1969 reprint of Poul Anderson's "The Trouble Twisters"; Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1967 reprint of "The Trouble Twisters"; we would like to check the 1966 first edition.
William Howe submitted a 1992 cite from Eluki Bes Shahar's "Darktraders".
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a 1993 reprint of Vernor Vinge's 1992 novel "A Fire Upon the Deep".
Cory Panshin submitted a 1973 cite from Joanna Russ' book reviews in F&SF.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1996 cite from Wolf Read's "Epona".
Edward Bornstein submitted a cite from a 1989 reprint of David Brin's 1980 "Sundiver".
Enoch Forrester identified and Edward Bornstein confirmed a 1996 cite from S.M. Stirling's "Drakon".

We found an article by Poul Anderson in which he credited Karen Anderson with coining the word: we also received email from Karen confirming this, so the first use in print of this word will be found somewhere amongst the works of Poul Anderson. We would like to verify the usage in the 1966 first edition of the Trouble Twisters, or in any earlier work by Anderson.

We received a cite from Mark McMcSweeny from a 1980 reprint of Poul Anderson's "Agent of the Terran Empire", in the 1951 story "Tiger by the Tail". However, the cite refers to races prominent in Anderson's stories from the 1970s (Ythrians, Merseians), so the use of "sophont" may be a 1980 insertion. We would like to know whether the word occurs in previous versions of the story, e.g. in the first edition of "Agent of the Terran Empire" (1965): Jesse Sheidlower checked the original publication of "Tiger by the Tail" in Planet Stories, January 1951, and the word does not appear there.

Last modified 2021-01-12 03:13:04
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.