little green man n.

a intelligent humanoid inhabitant of outer space, esp. when regarded as stereotypical of hackneyed science fiction


  • [ 1895 ‘F. M. Allen’ Little Green Man title of book

    The Little Green Man. ]

  • 1907 The State (Columbia, S.C.) 17 Feb. 24

    THE LITTLE GREEN MEN by G. Herb Palin…. The president…was anxious to meet Eddie of New York and the ten little green men from the moon.

  • 1908 Kansas City Star 6 Apr. 13

    The Martians were prepared to catch the first message from the earth. ‘Let me see,’ said the first little green man. ‘I wonder if the first communication will be a flash, a tick or a knock.’ ‘A knock, very likely,’ laughed the second little green man. ‘You know the earth is just full of knockers [sc. a person who habitually criticizes].’ Which shows how wise the Martians really are.

  • 1936 J. H. Haggard Moon Crystals in Astounding Stories Jan. 34/2 page image J. Harvey Haggard bibliography

    He had saved the little green man’s life, and from that time on, Omar Klegg had been the one white man who could step foot on the bad-land soil of Venus without the aid of blazing needle-beam gats.

  • 1939 R. Bloch in Amazing Stories Aug. 124/1 page image Robert Bloch

    And yet I insist on writing fantastic fiction. I would write more, if it wasn’t for the little green men that run out of the woodwork and pull down my socks every time I sit at the typewriter. I have managed to fool these fellows by not wearing socks, but lately they've taken to tugging at my trousers instead.

  • 1946 H. Lawlor Mayaya’s Little Green Men in Weird Tales Nov. 38/1 page image Harold Lawlor bibliography

    And that was when she said the strange thing. She laughed throatily, ‘Oh, the little green men told me.’The little green men! Well, we didn’t think it so strange at the time. I thought it was just a phrase, a gag, one of those things you say.

  • 1949 F. Brown Mouse in Thrilling Wonder Stories June 91/1 page image Fredric Brown bibliography

    ‘Don’t know what they have in mind unless to bomb the park, people and all, if little green men come out of that thing with ray guns and start killing everybody. Then the bombers could finish off whoever’s left.’ But no little green men came out of the cylinder.

  • 1951 M. Reynolds Case of Little Green Men 17 Mack Reynolds bibliography

    Maddigan twisted his beefy shoulders. ‘Possibly the flying saucers; there are as many different opinions on that phenomenon as there have been saucers sighted. Possibly they arent [sic] extra-terrestrial at all, but even if they're not, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t had, or do not have now, visitors among us.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Why should these little green men want to come to earth?’ Maddigan waggled a finger at me. ‘I am disappointed in you, Mr. Knight,’ he said peevishly. ‘This is a subject in which you are little versed. You have admitted almost complete ignorance, but still you are contemptuous. You say jokingly, ‘little green men’, and your tone of voice implies that the very thought of alien life is ridiculous. Yet you have no evidence to support your prejudice.’

  • 1956 R. A. Heinlein Time for the Stars 156 Robert A. Heinlein bibliography

    How does it feel to be a little green man in a flying saucer?

  • 1969 M. Z. Bradley Brass Dragon (1980) iii. 60 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    So scratch the mysterious eye of the idol of the Great God Foofooroney, complete with sinister Chinamen or lascars or little green men.

  • 1990 T. Pratchett Wings (1991) 140 page image Terry Pratchett bibliography

    Humans find it a lot easier, really, to believe in little people from the sky than little people from the Earth. They would prefer to think of little green men than leprechauns.

  • 2011 P. Heck On Books in Asimov’s Science Fiction Aug. 110/1 page image Peter Heck

    Scientists in a dozen fields are finding evidence that we may well have company in the universe—if not little green men or tentacled monsters seeking to carry off Earth’s women, certainly something we might recognize as living and maybe even as intelligent.

Research requirements

antedating 1907

Research History
Cites from the first half of the twentieth century and before tend to use the phrase to refer to fairies, leprechauns etc.; John Eggeling submitted the title of an 1895 book, "The Little Green Man. A Fairy Tale" by "F.M. Allen" (Edmund Downey). OED has citations from the early 19th century and onwards in reference to folkloric figures. There is an OED citation from 1906, from Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill", but it refers to an actual person tattooed green. Alistair Durie submitted a 1940 cite from an author's self-profile written by Robert Bloch, in a SF magazine but where the expression refers to a mischievous gremlin.

Cites referring to extraterrestrial beings:
Mike Christie submitted a cite from a 1963 reprint of Robert Heinlein's "Time for the Stars"; Andrew Dalke verified it in the 1956 first edition.
Jim Landau suggested locating a cite in Fredric Brown's "Martians, Go Home!"; Mike Christie located a cite in the 1954 first appearance.
Derek Hepburn submitted a 1953 cite from Noel Loomis' "Little Green Man".
James Gunn suggested and Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 1951 cite from Mack Reynolds' "The Case of the Little Green Man".
Dennis Lien identified and Jeff Prucher located a 1949 cite from Fredric Brown's "Mouse".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1948 cite from a letter by Rick Sneary to Startling Stories.
Fred Galvin suggested the story "Mayaya's Little Green Men" by Harold Lawlor, and Alistair Durie submitted cites from this story's 1946 first publication.
Jonathan Lighter submitted 1907 and 1908 citations.
Clive Shergold submitted a 1990 cite from Terry Pratchett.

Earliest cite in this specific sense in the OED: 1961.

Last modified 2023-08-25 18:04:18
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.