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Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction



Errors made in this blog have been corrected, thank you to our sharp-eyed commenters.

We were pretty excited around here when Brave New Words won the Hugo Award. Now that Brave New Words is available in paperback we asked Jeff Prucher, freelance lexicographer and editor for the Oxford English Dictionary‘s science fiction project, to revisit the blog. Below are Prucher’s picks of words that may seem to come from science, but really originate in science fiction.

In no particular order:

1. Robotics. This is probably the most well-known of these, since Isaac Asimov is famous for (among many other things) his three laws of robotics. Even so, I include it because it is one of the only actual sciences to have been first named in a science fiction story (“Liar!”, 1941). Asimov also named the related occupation (roboticist) and the adjective robotic.

2. Genetic engineering. The other science that received its name from a science fiction story, in this case Jack Williamson’s novel Dragon’s Island, which was coincidentally published in the same year as “Liar!” The occupation of genetic engineer took a few more years to be named, this time by Poul Anderson.

3. Zero-gravity/zero-g. A defining feature of life in outer space (sans artificial gravity, of course). The first known use of “zero-gravity” is from Jack Binder (better known for his work as an artist) in 1938, and actually refers to the gravityless state of the center of the Earth’s core. Arthur C. Clarke gave us “zero-g” in his 1952 novel Islands in the Sky.

4. Deep space. One of the other defining features of outer space is its essential emptiness. In science fiction, this phrase most commonly refers to a region of empty space between stars or that is remote from the home world. E. E. “Doc” Smith seems to have coined this phrase in 1934. The more common use in the sciences refers to the region of space outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

5. Ion drive. An ion drive is a type of spaceship engine that creates propulsion by emitting charged particles in the direction opposite of the one you want to travel. The earliest citation in Brave New Words is again from Jack Williamson (“The Equalizer”, 1947). A number of spacecraft have used this technology, beginning in the 1970s.

6. Pressure suit. A suit that maintains a stable pressure around its occupant; useful in both space exploration and high-altitude flights. This is another one from the fertile mind of E. E. Smith. Curiously, his pressure suits were furred, an innovation not, alas, replicated by NASA.

7. Virus. Computer virus, that is. Dave Gerrold (of “The Trouble With Tribbles” fame) was apparently the first to make the verbal analogy between biological viruses and self-replicating computer programs, in his 1972 story “When Harlie Was One.”

8. Worm. Another type of self-replicating computer program. So named by John Brunner in his 1975 novel Shockwave Rider.

9. Gas giant. A large planet, like Jupiter or Neptune, that is composed largely of gaseous material. The first known use of this term is from a story (“Solar Plexus”) by James Blish; the odd thing about it is that it was first used in a reprint of the story, eleven years after the story was first published. Whether this is because Blish conceived of the term in the intervening years or read it somewhere else, or whether it was in the original manuscript and got edited out is impossible to say at this point.

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Recent Comments

  1. Mike Cane

    #10: Soylent. From Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison.

  2. Robert W. Franson

    A couple of typos:
    Asimov’s “Liar” first appeared in 1941.
    Williamson’s story is “The Equalizer”.

    Unless the “Solar Plexus” manuscript for Astonishing Stories turns up, I’d presume that Blish saw or coined “gas giant” sometime after 1941.

    An interesting list!

  3. Peggy

    Jack Williamson has actually said that he learned that a scientist used the term “genetic engineering” before “Dragon’s Island” was published.

  4. [...] have a guest post over at OUP Blog: Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction. In the comments, someone pointed out that one of my words is really from science after all. This [...]

  5. Jeff Prucher

    @Peggy: Thanks for pointing that out. Add it to the list of Words You Might Think Came from Science Fiction but Actually Came from Science.

  6. Jeff Prucher

    @Robert: Typos fixed. Thanks for catching them.

  7. [...] Author Jeffrey Prucher points out 9 Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction. [...]

  8. Dennis G. Jerz

    The word “Robot” appeared in the Karel Capek play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) (written in 1920, premiered in Prague early in 1921, performed in New York in 1922). Karel’s brother Josef suggested the term, which described artificial workers (made of living tissue, not nuts and bolts).

  9. [...] Los 9 términos científicos que realmente fueron creados por ciencia ficciónblog.oup.com/2009/03/science-fiction/ por recuerdame hace pocos segundos [...]

  10. Doctor Alban

    Robot comes from a Czech word meaning “work” (robota). The first to use it now as we know it was the novelist Karel Capek in “Rossum’s Universal Robots”, in 1920

  11. padawan

    BTW, not only “robotics” is a word with it’s origin in science fiction. The word “robot”, meaning a mechanic humanoid, was coined by Karel Kapek, a checz writer, in “Rossum’s Universal Robots”

  12. Fernando Cerezal

    The term robot cames from Czech “Robota”, that means “slave”. The first use for denominate a (biological) being who serves men was in un “Rossum Universal Robots, RUR”, by Karel Kapeck.

    I supose that robotic is a derivated from that.

  13. Phil

    Why does everyone have too ruin it?

    If you think you’re right, give us a link to it and not make us read a bunch of dribble about other crap we have no interest in first!

    You people ruined it for the rest!

  14. Karel

    You’re right Fernando and it’s pointless to name robotics without refer to the term “robot” coined by Karel Capek in that book in 1921, as a side he claimed the idea came from his brother Josef.
    The meaning of the word has to do with “work” (similar to russian “Работа”) even in the sense of serfdom as in domestic or personal service, but no with Otrokí or slaves.

  15. Roy Sablosky

    My favorite is “waldo”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_(short_story)

  16. Wim L

    I am (also) surprised to see no mention of Capek in the entry for Robot— maybe Asimov was the first to use the word to describe a field of study?

  17. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction [...]

  18. Jon Thompson

    As Fernando Cerezal said, R.U.R. invented the term “Robot” where they were previously called “automaton” or “golem.” To credit “Robotics” to Asimov, without crediting “Robot” to Kapek (Josef, Karel’s brother) is either ignorant or irresponsible.

    Now with that said, the Robots in R.U.R. are biological entities a la Frankenstein, not silicon and metal constructs that we know robots to be now. However, that was the Science Fiction of the time.

  19. [...] Nine words you might think come from science, but which really come from science fiction Posted by George [link] [...]

  20. [...] And just for fun (not required):  Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction. [...]

  21. Lilian Nattel

    Interesting! And I enjoyed the comments, too. I didn’t realize that “robot” came from Czech.

  22. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science bu Which Are Really from Science Fiction [...]

  23. ruzkin

    Surprised you don’t have Cyberspace (William Gibson – Burning Chrome, 1982).

  24. ds

    I’m pretty William Gibson coined “cyberspace” in Neuromancer.

  25. Marc Petit-Huguenin

    The waldo could also be on this list, (from the short story “Waldo” by Robert A. Heinlein).

  26. joost

    What about Avatar, from Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)

  27. Jane Q. Public

    The comments about Capek are correct. “Robot” came from the Czech (it is the same in Russian) “robota”, meaning “work”, not “slave”.
    It is 20 years older than Asimov’s story.

  28. Jane Q. Public

    The “robots”, or “robotnik”, in Capek’s play were then mechanical “workers”.

  29. Thomas A.

    Look again at the title of the article.

    I think everybody knows, or thinks, that “robot” came from science fiction, so it doesn’t belong on this list. “Robotics” is the name of an actual branch of science, but before that, the word “robotics” was science fiction.

    I don’t think anybody thinks of “cyberspace” as a science word, and “waldo”, while great, just isn’t in general use. “Soylent” is a fictional brand name; it’s not a science word nor is it in general use.

    And I do wish that people commenting on an article about words could learn how to spell them, please.

  30. Jeff Prucher

    I omitted “robot” and “cyberspace” because I thought their sfnal coinages were pretty well-known, but I should have included them for completeness’ sake. (For the record, both are covered in Brave New Words.)

    “Cyberspace”, as Ruskin says, is originally from Gibson’s 1982 story “Burning Chrome”.

    Waldo would have been a good choice, as well.

  31. millia

    I realize it’s not all sci-fi, but grok has to be my favorite word coined by a sci-fi author.

    Such a great word.

  32. GO

    Teleportation

  33. Jane Q. Public

    For those who insist on links, rather than bothering to do 10 seconds worth of “Работа” on Google for themselves, here is a link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karel_Capek

  34. Jonathan Hutchins

    Asimov no more coined “robot” than hhe earned a Doctorate. Robot is believed to have first been used in “R.U.R.” (Rossum’s Universal Robots, published in 1921.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R._(Rossum's_Universal_Robots)#The_Origin_of_the_Word_.27Robot.27
    (Asimov’s Doctorate was honorary for fundraising.)

  35. Ceesaxp

    With due respect to all the honorable corrections of etymology for word ‘robotics’ (as derived from ‘robot’) — let’s get a few things right. The writer’s name is “Karel Čapek” (read as “Karel Chapek”), he is a Czech. Word ‘robot’ is indeed derivative of a Czech (and taken wider — slavic) word ‘robota’. It does not mean ‘slave’, however, but simply ‘work’ (however in certain aspects it may have connotations of ‘drudgery’). Oh, and yes — it was not Karel who invented the word, it was his brother Joseph.

  36. Pavel

    A note from a Czech speaker:
    – the surname “Capek” is fully spelled “Čapek” which means the pronunciation is “Chapek” (Chah-pek). not Kapek
    – the word “robota” originally meant “work” (and it still does in Russian), but it has been used for the obligatory work of land-less people for their landlords and the meaning changed to “very hard work” or “slave(-like) work” in modern Czech
    (The previous statements about the origin of the word are otherwise correct.)

  37. fullyinsane

    Where did you get the bit about furred space suits in E.E. Smith’s work? I vaguely remember something from “The Skylark of Space”, but I don’t remember anything like that in the “Lensman” series.

  38. RadicalEdward

    “Cyberspace” was most definitely Gibson in Neuromancer, not Burning Chrome.

  39. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

 : OUPbl… [...]

  40. papalagi

    aren’t you forgetting about Arthur C. Clarke and his idea of geostationary satellites?

  41. Gridpoet

    Also, the term Psychohistory, first used by Asimov in the Foundation series, is now a complete scientific discipline.

    That HAS to count for something ^_^

  42. Tom S.

    The article mentions the term “Ion Drive” having been coined in 1947. Now, I haven’t looked up where the term originated from, but the technology was first theorized in 1906 and the first experiments with ion thrusters took place in 1916-1917. I’m not discounting the possibility that the technology came around before the word, so if anyone else knows about this please fill me in.

  43. Tom S.

    I forgot to add a reference to my comment:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_drive

    a wikipedia article about ion thruster technology

  44. Expat

    My favorite is “goonsnarg”. It comes from science fiction, but it is almost never used in real life. But it is a great word.

  45. Ant

    Only 9? See http://www.technovelgy.com/

  46. HB

    The word ‘Robot':

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot#Etymology

    As for ‘robotics’, a quote from the above link:

    The word robotics, used to describe this field of study, was coined (albeit accidentally) by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.

    The whole search took about 1 sec… :)

  47. Colin

    As I recall, William Gibson was the first to use the term “internet,” in his novel Neuromancer.

  48. David

    “Avatar” was first coined by Neal Stephenson in “Snow Crash”

  49. retro

    What’s interesting is that most of these names come from the 30’s and 40’s. Nice way to underline how creatively dry our modern writers have become.

  50. Argo

    Actually Robot has a much deeper origin, coming from the Czech author Karel Capek, from his book R.U.R. (rozums universal robots).
    Which Asimov then built on.

  51. Patrick

    You forgot Cloaking Device

  52. Tim J

    I was surprised at there being no mention of Capek’s play. For Phil: Wikipedia describes the etymology of robot here (the article may link to more authoritative sources; I don’t know. It’s Wikipedia.)

    It’s an interesting article but the sort that makes you think. And my thought is about the title, because it seems to me that science fiction itself (at least of the Asimov and Arthur C Clarke variety) originates from thinking about science and its possibilities . . . and many ideas in real science and technology begin with the speculations of scientists and science fiction writers alike, as to what might be possible or what theories might be workable.

    So I think there’s such an interplay between science and science fiction that you can’t really say whether an idea—and maybe its word— originates in science or science fiction. At what point do the speculations become science? When Arthur C Clarke made predictions about future technology, was he thinking speculatively about science, or being a science fiction writer?

  53. Tim J

    PS I accidentally typed the wrong address for my website when I entered my details for the previous comment. It’s http://timtfj.wordpress.com. Please could you correct it, and delete THIS comment? Thanks

  54. noboddy

    I don’t think Capek’s play R.U.R has been mentioned enough in the comments.
    R.U.R.
    Capek
    So there.

  55. Jen

    Avatar is originally the incarnation of a Hindu deity, thus a representation. not exactly sci fi

  56. ijuy

    @noboddy
    I agree with you!
    xD

    Until now, we have about 10 useless comments about Capek.
    Still counting…

    Please, read comments before post.

  57. Steve Wilson

    Asimov DID have a PHd in BioChemistry from Columbia University earne din 1948 according to Wikipedia

  58. Jon Crowcroft

    R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)
    1921 play by Carol Kapek

    Asimov got it from there.

    read anything by Sladek on robots to learn more

  59. Dare

    joost and David, Avatar comes from Hinduism and it means “incarnation”, when a god takes human body. It doesn’t come from sci-fi but religion.

  60. [...] Hugos for his dictionary of science fiction Brave New Words, picked out the phrases in an article for Oxford University Press. He ran into some bother over his crediting of the term genetic engineering to Jack [...]

  61. chuck sterling

    TANJ. An expletive, I think coined by Larry Niven. An acronym for “There ain’t no justice”.

    Not in general use, but occasionally heard at the office…

  62. isa kocher

    avatar comes from the Middle East religions ['fire worshippers'] practiced by IndoEuropean speakers, such religions as Zoroastrianism, and avatar is a Sanskrit word going back 5 or 6 or god knows how many millenia

  63. Anonymous

    @Tom S.: this article is about words, not necessarily technologies, so the fact that the theory of ion drives predates the term doesn’t change the fact of the term’s coinage; now it is of course possible that the term did originate outside of SF and we just haven’t found the evidence yet. (The same is, of course, true for many of these terms.)

    @fullyinsane: The furry suits are from “Skylark of Space”.

  64. NWolf

    Avatar was NOT coined by Sthepenson. He thinks he came up with the word, but he didn’t. He even admits as much in an interview.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(computing)

    Either way, I remember playing with Avatars and using the term long before Snow Crash was first published. Bandwidth was too limited to do much with them graphically, but the concept was there and the term was in use in the 80’s at least.

    Stephenson had nothing to do with the origins of “avatar.”

  65. Jeff Prucher

    @fullyinsane: the furry suits are from “Skylark of Space”.

    @Tom S.: the list is about terminology rather than technology; so while the theory of ion drives predates the term “ion drive”, the fact that (one of) the term(s) used to describe them comes from SF is, in itself, interesting, just as the first program that resembles a computer virus predates the description of the program as a “virus”. Of course, as with many of these words, it’s always possible that further research will show earlier coinages.

  66. [...] scientific terms “robotics” and “genetic engineering” actually originated in science-fiction stories by Isaac Asimov and Jack [...]

  67. John Campbell

    @millia:

    Unfortunately, “grok” isn’t being used in science… and not a whole lot in other use.

    Though, if you want to purge “grok” from your vocabulary, instead of the Heimlich, you’ll need the Heinlein maneuver (though it may be more of a gesture).

    Asimov, BTW, didn’t see pocket calculators coming, even in “Foundation”, though there was a need for it.

  68. Phasma Felis

    No, Stephenson did not coin “avatar” in the online sense. It had been used in computer games for years before Snow Crash; he just borrowed the usage.

  69. JBBW

    Let us all remember that this article is about scientific words that came from Science Fiction.

  70. Bef

    What about “Sprawl” in terms of urbanism? I think William Gibson used it first on Neuromancer and nowadays is commonly used by arcchitects and urbanists.

  71. Bruce Webb

    Most of the hard science fiction of the Golden Age (which I would place from the mid-thirties to the late fifties) came from people with science or engineering backgrounds: Asimov, Heinlein, Clark, Anderson being only the start of the list. I think if someone did some side by side comparisons of Astounding Stories and Popular Mechanics from those years you would find substantial overlap in both content and readership. Asking whether concepts or terms ultimately derived from the lab or worktable on the one hand vs out of the imagination of science fiction writers being a question that maybe would not have made much sense at the time given that a lot of these guys drifted back and forth over the line until health or wealth ended up defining them primarily as science fiction writers. On the flip side Fred Hoyle was one of the masters of 1950’s and early 60’s science fiction but then wrote some mediocre stuff with his son in the later 60’s leaving him mostly known as a pretty famous Cosmologist. I haven’t read it for decades but I suspect that a careful reading of Black Cloud (1957) would turn up concepts and terms that showed up much later in his scientific and popular science work.

  72. Bruce Webb

    Well this is mind bending. In Googling on Fred Hoyle it appears that his Steady State theory (very influential in the 60’s and 70’s although outdated today) came about after he and his collaborators watched a British horror film called ‘Dead of Night’.

    I mean it is one thing to take your scientific inspiration from H.G. Wells, or Jules Verne or Capek, it is something different to get it from a genre flick. This is a little OT in that it doesn’t talk about terms per se, but interesting in showing how blurred some of the boundaries between science, pseudo-science, science fiction, and popular culture generally really are.

  73. Space race | SupaFeed

    [...] Hugos for his dictionary of science fiction Brave New Words, picked out the phrases in an article for Oxford University Press. He ran into some bother over his crediting of the term genetic engineering to Jack [...]

  74. svaughn

    From Wikipedia: “The word “cyberspace” (from cybernetics and space) was coined by science fiction novelist and seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson in his 1982 story “Burning Chrome” and popularized by his 1984 novel Neuromancer.”

  75. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

 : OUPbl… (tags: science scifi language etymology books geek) [...]

  76. [...] are now commonly used in actual science. There is a post at the blog of Oxford University Press (http://blog.oup.com/2009/03/science-fiction/) describing the etymology of nine such words. So grab the pen and start writing – who knows, one [...]

  77. Baron Dave Romm

    A list that lacks meat, I’m afraid. It doesn’t include “Atlantis” (from Plato’s “Republic”), “Utopia” (from Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia”) or the “waterbed” (from Heinlein’s “Stranger In A Strange Land”) and so on. I can’t think of any offhand, but Verne and Wells introduced entire genres of sf and I wouldn’t be surprised if they introduced words, Shakespeare-like, that we just assume always existed.

  78. Paidmail

    wow, im gonna pay special attention to all the tech talk in star trek from now on!

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  80. [...] Oxford University Press has figured out nine of the most prominent scientific terms that actually originated in science-fiction, not in a laboratory. [...]

  81. Quinlan

    What about “quark”, an elementary particle ?
    The word was first coined by James Joyce in Finnegans Wake:

    Three quarks for Muster Mark!
    Sure he has not got much of a bark
    And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.

    Actually, the scientist who postulated the quark model named it after a duck’s quack, but wasn’t decided on a spelling until he found the word in Finnegans Wake. Not science fiction but amusing nonetheless.

  82. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science bu Which Are Really from Science Fiction Share this… These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  83. Steven

    Not only did Isaac Asimov invent the term robotics, he is one of the few people to have introduced more than one new word into the language.

    I believe that the term “psychohistory” from the Foundation Trilogy has also found its way into “common” usage. The non-fictional study of psychohistory is a direct response from the fictional science in Asmiov’s work.

    See Wikipedia for references:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory_(fictional)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory

    And there is also “The Institute for Psychohistory” at http://www.psychohistory.com/.

    Does anyone remember any other words coined by Isaac Asimov?

  84. Steven

    John Cambell commented earlier about the word “grok”, a word coined by Robert A. Heinlein in the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” published in 1961. I have heard the word used more than once in the world of computer science.

    Grok is defined in the Merrian-Webster Online Dictionary at:
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grok

    And it is used in a title of a computer science book, “Grokking the GIMP” by Carey Bunks. GIMP is Graphical Image Manipulation Program. On online copy of the book is available at:
    http://gimp-savvy.com/BOOK/

  85. Jeff Prucher

    @Steven: Asimov has quite a few coinages under his belt. Positronic is another of his better-known ones, as is Frankenstein complex. The OED credits him with microcomputer as well, and in Brave New Words, his are the earliest citations for “jump” (a trip through hyperspace), “galactographer”, and “spacer” (a spaceperson), among others.

  86. Eunoia

    Re Robots : Presumably “Golem” was a Yiddish word giving encouragement to Stanislaw Lem? ;-)

  87. [...] Oxford University Press blog has a list of nine scientific terms borrowed from science fiction. The book, Brave New Words, looks pretty awesome, [...]

  88. btsoap

    What about “frak?”

  89. Mike Hunt

    Heinlein created WALDO.
    And FRAK. We all know where that came from.

  90. [...] and editor for the Oxford English Dictionary’s science fiction project has put together a list of common scientific words that originated in fiction. Such terms include “robotics”, “ion drive” and even [...]

  91. penny

    “zero gravity”, and “zero gravity” are NOT scientific terms. The correct scientific term is “free fall”. A satellite in orbit doesn’t have zero gravity–it is falling freely.

    ” We are in free orbit.”–Destination Moon, by Robert Heinlein.

    Postitronic, as in “Positronic Matter” was first used by Anderson–the discoverer and namer of the particle
    positron. P.A,M Dirac called his particles negative electrons and also holes.

    It would be fun to have another thread called:
    “Words that we think came from science fiction by actually came from science or engineering”

    Some examples: Cyborg, Space Warp, Hyperspace, virtual reality, minicomputer, spacecraft, space elevator, space station.

    There must be many more.

  92. [...] The Oxford dictionary of science fiction. L’autore, Jeff Prucher, raccoglie un sacco di parole ed espressioni usate per la prima volta in libri e film di fantascienza e poi finite ad arricchire il vocabolario [...]

  93. [...] Nine words you might think came from science but which are really from science fiction. Find the list over at OUP. [...]

  94. [...] Brave New Words author Jeff Prucher traces the origin of nine oft-used Science Fiction words: Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction [...]

  95. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

 : OUPbl… Via The Morning News [...]

  96. Jeff Prucher

    @penny: The OED credits C. D. Anderson with the coinage of “positron” (1933, in the journal Science), but Asimov with the coinage of the adjective (1941, in Astounding SF). If you know of an earlier occurrence of the adjectival form, the OED would be happy to hear of it.

    To your other point, there are surely many, many more, depending, of course, on what each person’s point of reference is. (Although with regards to “spacecraft”, the earliest citations I’ve seen give the nod to science fiction by a few months: May 1941 in a Buck Rogers comic strip vs. Aug 1941 in Scientific American. With this kind of research, though, the ground is always shifting as new data comes to light. Which is part of the fun.)

  97. Debi Linton

    I realise that Gary Larson cartoons are not Sciece Fiction, and that it’s a word not in widespread use outside dinosaur palaeontology, but my favourite is still Thagomizer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thagomizer

  98. Ariel

    I think the term ‘terra-forming’ from “Dune” was forgotten.

  99. Fred Galvin

    “Ion drive” may have been coined in Williamson’s 1947 “The Equalizer”, but “ion rocket” goes back at least to Campbell’s 1936 “Uncertainty”.

  100. Fred Galvin

    Anent Heinlein’s verb “grok”, has anyone confirmed or debunked the idea that it was inspired by the Martian noun “grak” (pl. grekka) in P. S. Miller’s 1943 “The Cave”?

    “They were all grekka here–all living things, united in the common battle for existence against a cruel and malignant Nature.”

    All right, so the meaning isn’t much like “grok”, it’s more like “water brother”.

  101. [...] blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford publica un interesantísimo post de 9 palabras que muchos creemos que vienen de la ciencia, pero en realidad son obra de la ciencia [...]

  102. [...] blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford publica un interesantísimo post de 9 palabras que muchos creemos que vienen de la ciencia, pero en realidad son obra de la ciencia [...]

  103. Brian Dennis

    Can’t credit “internet” to Gibson. The term appeared in the 70’s during the development of the networking protocols that support the Internet.

  104. [...] Jesus on Abr.16, 2009, under General En el blog de la Universidad de Oxford se han publicado estas palabras que se supondrían fueron inventadas por la ciencia, pero en [...]

  105. [...] blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford publica un interesantísimo post de 9 palabras que muchos creemos que vienen de la ciencia, pero en realidad son obra de la ciencia [...]

  106. [...] escribieron en el blog del departamento de prensa de la Universidad de Oxford el cual explica las 9 palabras que muchos creen que vienen directamente de la ciencia, pero que al final vienen de la mente de un escritor de [...]

  107. coolest guy on the planet

    The term ‘atomic bomb’ dates back to 1913? – see The World Set Free by H. G. Wells (in which Wells also foresaw nuclear power stations and the possibility of nuclear terrorism). Wells also foresaw the World Wide Web – he called it the ‘World Mind’.

  108. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction. [...]

  109. [...] Posted on 17. Apr, 2009 by NxR in Noticias, Tecnologia Leyendo alt1040 me entero de 9 palabras que surgieron de la ciencia ficción y no de la ciencia como muchas personas creen o dan por hecho…La lista fue publicada originalmente en el blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford. [...]

  110. Fred Galvin

    @Ariel: Terraforming was invented by Jack Williamson, a good 20 years before Frank Herbert’s “Dune World”:
    http://www.jessesword.com/sf/view/125

  111. [...] Nine words you might think came from the world of “science”, but actually came from sci-… [...]

  112. [...] blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford publica un  post de 9 palabras que muchos creemos que vienen de la ciencia. Vía [...]

  113. capek

    I actually got the word Robot from the Turkish/Cypriots words for stupid/idiot: “hollo” and “dodo”.

  114. [...] El blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford publica un interesantísimo post de 9 palabras que muchos creemos que vienen de la ciencia, pero en realidad son obra de la ciencia [...]

  115. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

 : OUPbl… 7. Virus. Computer virus, that is. Dave Gerrold (of “The Trouble With Tribbles” fame) was apparently the first to make the verbal analogy between biological viruses and self-replicating computer programs, in his 1972 story “When Harlie Was One.” [...]

  116. [...] 3. Nine words which came from science fiction. [...]

  117. David Hecht

    @John Campbell: actually, Asimov may be the first writer to have described pocket calculators, in his short story, “A Feeling of Power”. However, they were clearly electromechanical, as they were described as functioning to the sound of whirring gears and other similar sounds.

    The modern multipurpose pocket device connected wirelessly to a larger network of computers (PDA or what have you), based on integrated circuits, was propounded by Niven and Pournelle in “The Mote in God’s Eye”.

  118. The Necromancer

    Swanky post. I like all the discussion of Asimov and the word “robot” that follows. And I do believe that Gibson indeed coined “cyberspace” in Neuromancer

  119. Larry

    Have any SF words coined this millenium entered common usage?

  120. Tim Conway

    Regardless of how many other terms may come from SF, as long as you’re making corrections to your original post, why not change the title to “Nine Phrases You Might etc.” ?

  121. [...] University Press Blog has a nice entry on 9 words widely used in science today that originated from science fiction [...]

  122. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction (tags: englishlanguage geek sf/f books science) [...]

  123. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came From Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction [...]

  124. [...] you might think came from science, but which are really science fiction. That’s a very long article title, but it’s a fun read. Sample: 1. Robotics. This is probably the most well-known of [...]

  125. [...] source [...]

  126. GeauxGhoti

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/robot

    From both Czech robota meaning “drudgery” or “servitude” and from Slovak robota meaning “labour”. First appeared in the 1921 science-fiction play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek after having been suggested to him by his brother Josef [1], and taken into the English translation without change.

    For those who are interested, Karel is the Czech version of Charles, and his last name is pronounced Cha pek. (I live in Czech Republic with my Czech Fiancée)

  127. Cyborgelf

    Great List,
    I enjoyed reading all of the discussion about where some of these words actually came from

  128. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction [...]

  129. [...] came from E.E. Smith. “Curiously, his pressure suits were furred,” says Prucher, citing his list, “an innovation not replicated by [...]

  130. [...] editor for the Oxford English Dictionary’s science fiction project, revisited the blog with his picks of words that may seem to come from science, but really originate in science fiction. Now that Brave New Words is available in paperback, we’ve asked Jeff to write for us yet [...]

  131. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science FictionMega bonus props for "When Harlie Was One" reference. God I loved that book.Tags: language technology geeky [...]

  132. Shruti Chandra Gupta

    Thanks for the coined words. Although I don’t read sci-fi, it was informative.

  133. [...] del Departament de Premsa de la Universitat d’Oxford publica un interessantíssim post de 9 paraules que molts crèiem que venien de la ciència, però en realitat són obra de la ciència [...]

  134. links for 2009-04-16

    [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction?? : OUPblog computer virus: 1972. computer worm: 1975 (tags: science language scifi history etymology words) links for 2009-04-17 links for 2009-04-14 [...]

  135. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction : OUPblog blog.oup.com/2009/03/science-fiction – view page – cached Filed in A-Editor’s Picks , A-Featured , Dictionaries , Lexicography , Literature , Reference on March 31, 2009 | — From the page [...]

  136. interactions magazine

    [...] a piece that does what it says on the can. Meanwhile, a recent Oxford University Press blog, “Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction“, illustrates the ambiguity between science fiction and science fact. The comments offer some [...]

  137. Nero

    Can you tell me if the ebook biz of http://www.darkcastle.com is for real? It looks like they’re still developing the site, but the premise looks interesting. Anyway, has anyone here heard of them; and, are they legit? Thanks.

  138. [...] blog del Departamento de Prensa de la Universidad de Oxford publicó una interesante lista de 9 palabras que creemos provienen de la ciencia, pero la realidad [...]

  139. [...] Nine Words You Might Think Came From Science But Which Are Really From Science Fiction [...]

  140. jv ocampo

    pls make the nine words more clear,,bigger and meaningful..thats only……… thankss….

  141. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by JC2life: Nine words that came form science but science fiction http://bit.ly/3KDp27

  142. John D.

    Thomas A. wrote:
    “I don’t think anybody thinks of “cyberspace” as a science word, and “waldo”, while great, just isn’t in general use”

    This is about scientific use, not general use. The Association of Computing Machinery’s guide to computing literature lists 1,188 professional computer science papers alone referring to waldoes. There are probably at least as many, if not more, engineering papers referring to the term waldoes.

  143. [...] from Jeff Prucher,  Oxford University Press [...]

  144. admena

    pelonetologest

  145. Patrick

    “Avatar” Coined by Neil Stephenson in his book “Snow Crash”.

  146. energy monitoring

    The word robot was introduced to the public by Czech writer Karel Äapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), published in 1920 The play is called Rossum’s Universal Robots

  147. [...] The Oxford dictionary of science fiction. L’autore, Jeff Prucher, raccoglie un sacco di parole ed espressioni usate per la prima volta in libri e film di fantascienza e poi finite ad arricchire il vocabolario [...]

  148. [...] Hugos for his dictionary of science fiction Brave New Words, picked out the phrases in an article for Oxford University Press. He ran into some bother over his crediting of the term genetic engineering to Jack [...]

  149. [...] derive from science fiction.  I’ve never been particularly interested in sci-fi, but on reading this blog post from the Oxford University Press about words that have come into English from science fiction, perhaps I should [...]

  150. [...] Prucher, the author of Brave New Words, a Hugo Award-winning scifi dictionary, composed a list of 9 words that seem like they came from science but are actually from [...]

  151. [...] proof that sci-fi is intellectually and scientifically valuable, witness: Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

. From the Oxford University Press blog, no less. Some dude even wrote a book all about it, Brave [...]

  152. [...] via OUPblog and SFFWorld.com. Image via Shutterstock.com Tweet Share 6/09/2013 08:06 am Tyler [...]

  153. [...] Oxford University Press (or OUP as its usually referred to in book circles in the UK) has a blog post up entitled [...]

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