ray n.

a beam of (destructive) energy, emitted by a ray gun or similar device

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1897 H. G. Wells War of Worlds vi, in Pearson’s Magazine May 492/1 H. G. Wells

    Only the fact that a hummock of heathery sand intercepted the lower part of the Heat Ray saved them.

  • 1907 N.Y. Times Magazine 25 Aug. 7/2

    They use a superior electro—or radio—gun, which plumps a ray or a shock through space and demolishes whatever it hits.

  • 1917 ‘V. Rousseau’ Messiah of the Cylinder x. 110 Victor Rousseau bibliography

    From each of the conical machines a glare of light shot forth. The Russians wilted and crumpled up. They did not fall; they were rather consumed like lead dropped into fire, and the next line wilted too as the Ray caught them.

  • 1930 J. Taine Iron Star (1976) ii. 23 John Taine bibliography

    More than one layman in the audience left the hall with the fixed and ineradicable belief that it is possible, by the proper use of the right chemicals or radioactive emanations—‘rays’, in the vague language of the street—so to modify the ductless glands of the human body that physical appearance, sex, character and brain power can be profoundly modified if not wholly transformed.

  • 1930 J. Taine Iron Star (1976) ii. 24 John Taine bibliography

    Further, he ventured to prophesy in the same humorous vein, it will be easy, by spraying a patient’s ductless glands with the appropriate type of ‘rays’ to make two hairs sprout where none grew before.

  • 1930 J. Taine Iron Star (1976) iv. 59 John Taine bibliography

    Somehow he has got it into his head that ‘rays’—X-rays, alpha rays, or some mystical kind not yet discovered—can change the rate of growth of the human body.

  • 1931 E. E. Smith Spacehounds of IPC in Amazing Stories Sept. 544/2 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    He first called Mars, the home planet of Alcantro and Fedanzo, the foremost force-field experts of three planets; and was assured in no uncertain terms that those rulers of rays were ready and anxious to follow wherever Brandon and Westfall might lead.

  • 1950 F. Brown Honeymoon in Hell in Galaxy Science Fiction Nov. 14/2 page image Fredric Brown bibliography

    Suppose some extra-terrestrials have landed somewhere on Earth and have set up a station that broadcasts a ray that is causing the phenomenon.

  • 1969 M. Z. Bradley Brass Dragon (1980) iii. 53 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    Hey, maybe you spent all that time on a flying saucer…and then they used one of their super-hyper rays on you to make you forget.

  • 1993 Science Fiction Studies Nov. 363

    The scientist in The Branded Four (1920) who creates for villains an energy ‘ray’ that is capable of destroying the human race.

  • 2015 K. Bao Dove Arising xi. 85 page image Karen Bao bibliography

    Another weapon, the Gamma gun, generates rays that cause radiation sickness and death within a day. We’ve never used that one either.

Research requirements

antedating 1897

Earliest cite

H. G. Wells 'War of the Worlds'

Research History
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2015 cite from Karen Bao.

Last modified 2021-02-25 12:58:46
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.