From “lightsaber” to “warp speed,” science fiction has been contributing words to our vocabulary for decades, long before Star Trek and the Space Race. Now, The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is making sure that sci-fi’s colorful history is thoroughly documented in a free online tool.
The dictionary includes over 2,000 terms synonymous with science fiction. It’s the brainchild of Jesse Shiedlower, whose career as a lexicographer led him all the way to being editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary.
The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction documents the past and future
The dictionary is a treasure trove of information about word origins, often yielding surprising tidbits. For example, even if you’ve never watched Star Trek, you’ve probably heard the term “warp speed” and link it with the U.S.S. Enterprise. But according to Schiedlower’s research, the term was first used in a story that appeared in Imagination magazine in 1952, over a decade before the term appeared in Gene Roddenberry’s seminal sci-fi series.
Browsing the dictionary reveals fascinating information for sci-fi fans and curious armchair etymologists alike. The word “actifan,” for example, refers to “someone who is actively involved in fandom” and was coined in 1942.
Like all dictionaries, The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is a living document that will continue to grow as new sci-fi TV shows, movies and books are created. Shiedlower has done the lion’s share of the work in getting it together so that it can continue to be updated and revised as new words are developed and meanings change.
The dictionary is searchable in a variety of ways thanks to its online interface. You can stick to traditional alphabetical searches, for example, or you can search by subject or word origins.
Whether you’re beefing up on your sci-fi knowledge for pub trivia night or looking for something to do on a rainy day, The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is a great resource for everyone.
h/t SyFy Wire