phaser n.

in the fictional universe of the Star Trek franchise: a (usu. hand-held) weapon incorporating an energy beam whose phase can be altered to create different effects (such as stunning, disintegration, etc.) on the target

Originally from Star Trek. The 1953 Heinlein quote shows an unrelated sense, a device that adjusts the phase of a force field.

Memory Alpha

Star Trek


  • [1953 R. A. Heinlein Starman Jones 67 Robert A. Heinlein

    They were a little slow synchronizing the field…or else this bucket of bolts has an unbalanced phaser. ]

  • 1966 G. Roddenberry Memo 26 Apr. in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ (1968) iii. i. 272 Gene Roddenberry bibliography

    Reference the mating of various components of the phaser weapons…when the hand phaser is mated to the pistol, they should appear as one weapon.

  • 1968 R. Hamner & G. L. Coon Taste of Armageddon in J. Blish Star Trek 213 Robert Hamner Gene L. Coon

    In view of the warning, they all carried number-one phasers, in addition to a tricorder.

  • 1968 S. E. Whitfield in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ ii. ii. 193 bibliography

    The hand phasers’ variety of power settings include a wide range of choices that permit the phaser to be used as a cutting torch, welding device, and similar hand tool needs.

  • 1968 S. E. Whitfield in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ ii. ii. 193 bibliography

    The hand-carried weapons, called ‘phasers’, are pure energy weapons (as are all offensive weapons in the ship’s arsenal).

  • 1968 S. E. Whitfield in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ ii. ii. 190 bibliography

    The ship’s phaser banks are located on the underside of the saucer-shaped hull.

  • 1968 S. E. Whitfield in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ ii. i. 166 bibliography

    A number of early changes were simply an effort to keep Star Trek’s technology ahead of present-day scientific developments. This was the reason Gene reversed himself on an earlier decision in the ‘planning’ stage and discarded the term ‘Laser’, substituting the term ‘Phaser’.

  • 1968 G. Coon Arena in J. Blish Star Trek 2 (1968) 7

    He would have traded the whole wealth of them for a hand phaser.

  • 1972 J. Blish Star Trek 8 8 James Blish

    Phasers on stun.

  • 1974 J. Blish Star Trek 10 81 James Blish

    His hand went fast to the phaser at his belt.

  • 1978 G. Eklund Starless World vii. 30 Gordon Eklund

    I…discovered that the ship’s phasers were no longer functional.

  • 1984 D. Duane My Enemy, my Ally i. 10 Diane Duane bibliography

    He and Giellun…had finally succeeded in attaching those stealthily-acquired Klingon gunnery augmentation circuits to Bloodwing’s phasers.

  • 1992 P. David Imzadi xvii. 124 Peter David bibliography

    Tang stroked his round, stubbled chin. The large phaser he always wore was clipped to his waist and slapped against his thick leg.

  • 1995 D. W. Smith & K. K. Rusch Star Trek Voyager: Escape v. 52 Dean Wesley Smith Kristine Kathryn Rusch bibliography

    ‘Phasers on stun,’ Torres said softly to Kim while not slowing down. ‘Make it back to that ship and hold it secure. Understood?’

  • 1999 N. Stephenson Cryptonomicon 102 Neal Stephenson

    A beam of yellow light, like a phaser blast in Star Trek, shoots across the bay.

  • 2009 K. Beyer Unworthy xxi. 285 page image bibliography

    Eden led the security team into the shuttlebay, her phaser at the ready. It had been a long time since she had engaged in a combat scenario that wasn’t a simulation, but her body remembered what her mind would have preferred to forget.

Research requirements

antedating 1966

Earliest cite

G. Roddenberry in letter

Research History
Letter by Roddenberry April 26, 1966, "hand phaser". "Phaser pistol" found in shooting schedule 1965.

Jeff Prucher found a 1953 cite for "phaser" in Robert A. Heinlein's "Starman Jones", but this was an unrelated sense, for a device for adjusting the "phase" of a force field.

Last modified 2021-12-14 14:27:03
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.