Full record for alien adj.

Definition Of or pertaining to an (intelligent) being or beings from another planet; that derives from another world.
OED requirements antedating 1920
Comment Mike Christie submitted a 1936 cite from Jack Williamson.
Brian Ameringen cited Jack Williamson's title "The Alien Intelligence", from 1929, and Mike Christie submitted a cite from it from a 1942 reprint, which Rick Hauptmann subsequently verified in the 1929 version.
Mike Christie submitted a cite from a 1977 reprint of Philip Barshovsky's story "One Prehistoric Night" from the 1934 Wonder Stories; again, we would like verification of the original.
Rick Hauptmann submitted 1929 cites from Jack Williamson and Dr. Miles Breuer's "The Girl From Mars" and from Jack Williamson's story "The Alien Intelligence".

Christopher Pound submitted a 1936 cite from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time".
Cory Panshin submitted a cite from a 1975 reprint of C. L. Moore's 1934 "The Bright Illusion".
Cory Panshin submitted a cite from a 1975 reprint of C. L. Moore's 1934 "Black God's Kiss".
Cory Panshin submitted a cite from a 1975 reprint of C.L. Moore's "Tryst in Time"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1936 first appearance.
Cory Panshin submitted a cite from a 1994 reprint of A. Merritt's "The Moon Pool"; we would like to check the 1919 original appearance in All-Story Weekly, or failing that any pre-1929 appearance. Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a reprint of John W. Campbell's "The Black Star Passes"; but Andrew May determined that the cite was not in the original 1930 magazine appearance.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1913 cite from Alice Meynell.
Imran Ghory submitted a 1926 cite from Irwin Edman's "Adam, the Baby, and the Man from Mars"
Lerida Arnold submitted a cite from a 1920 reprint of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars: we would like to verify this in the magazine serialization (in All-Story magazine ca. 1912)

The term "alien" appears to have acquired the straightforward "non-earthly" meaning sometime in the thirties, though earlier isolated examples such as the 1913 cite do exist. The usage appears to have been changing via "utterly unfamiliar" and "inhuman, humanly incomprehensible". We would like early cites documenting this change from before 1929.

(Earliest cite in OED: 1944)

Last modified 19 July, 2009

Citations for alien adj.

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1919 A. Merritt Moon Pool (1994) 355 Subtly, undefinably it was of our world and of one not ours‥. It had eyes—eyes that were now only shadows darkening within its luminosity like veils falling, and falling, opening windows into the unknowable; deepening into softly glowing blue pools, blue as the Moon Pool itself; then flashing out, and this only when the—face—bore its most human resemblance, into twin stars large almost as the crown of little moons; and with that same baffling suggestion of peep-holes into a world untrodden, alien, perilous to man!
1920 E. R. Burroughs Princess of Mars 62, I was later to witness the results of the discovery of an alien incubator.
1926 I. Edman Adam, Baby, and Man from Mars in Jour. Philos. Aug. 19 449 Adam, the Baby, and the Man from Mars have always been invoked in the history of thought as the only three unprejudiced observers of the human scene—Adam, fresh from the hand of his Maker, the Baby new to earth and sky, and the Man from Mars on his first visit to an alien planet.
1929 J. Williamson in Sci. Wonder Stories July 115/1 Here was the display, indeed, of alien science and power!
1929 J. Williamson in Sci. Wonder Stories Aug. 243/1 I knew that it was intelligent, a sentient being. But it was not human, not a thing of flesh and blood at all. It was a machine! Or, rather, it was in a machine, for I felt far more of it than I saw—a will, a cold and alien intellect, a being, malefic, inhuman, inscrutable. It was a thing that belonged, not in the present earth, but in the tomb of the unthinkable past, or beyond the wastes of interstellar space, amid the inconceivably [sic] horrors of unknown spheres.
1929 J. Williamson & M. J. Breuer Girl From Mars 12, I led him into my study, shut the door, and sat down by my desk. He remained standing, a striking and powerful figure with his mighty, muscular limbs, his strong and prominent features, and his eyes of penetrating brilliance. Then there was the difference I mentioned, the air of alien power and the strange, malign spirit that lurked in the green-black eyes, setting him apart from ordinary men. ‘Is Pandorina the child of earthly parents?’ he asked harshly, his sharp eyes boring into mine. ‘Why, what makes you ask that?’ I countered, caught unexpectedly, but unwilling to admit anything. ‘You have told her that she is not your child. In pallor of skin, color of hair, and luster of eye, she resembles me. But I am not a terrestrial man. I came to earth in a meteor. I am the son of the science of another world, and I know that two other similar meteors fell on the same evening. I was brought up by a farmer named Mason. He lived in the village of Folsom, over toward Camden. He did not, as you have done, lie to his foster-child about his origin. These are the reasons for my question; these, and the fact that Pandorina and I feel an irresistible attraction.’
1936 C. L. Moore in Astounding Stories Dec. 18/1 This girl, this unknown, unimaginably far-distant girl, perhaps star-born, certainly very alien—had died as all her race must be doomed to die, until the last flicker of that stupendous civilization was stamped out.
1936 C. L. Moore in Astounding Stories Dec. 19/1 He could not guess where he was, in what land or time, in the presence of what alien race. The men were all little and dark and hairy, and somehow crooked, like gnomes. He had never heard a tongue like the gutturals they mouthed.
1936 H. P. Lovecraft in Astounding Stories June 132/2 According to these scraps of information, the basis of the fear was a horrible elder race of half polypous, utterly alien entities which had come through space from immeasurably distant universes and had dominated the earth and three other solar planets about six hundred million years ago.
1939 A. E. van Vogt in Astounding Sci. Fiction July 17/1 The killer attacked Jarvey, and then discovered his flesh was alien—uneatable.
1939 A. E. van Vogt in Astounding Sci. Fiction July 17/1 The killer attacked Jarvey, and then discovered his flesh was alien—uneatable.
1942 J. Williamson in Capt. Future Summer 113/2 Here was the display, indeed, of alien science and power!
1942 Astounding Sci. Fiction July 26/1 That will be the result of my earlier presence, and will not recur now that so many alien presences have affected its—sanity!
1944 I. Asimov in Astounding Sci. Fiction Aug. 40/1 You abandoned a subject of the Foundation to torture and death at the hands of an alien mob, Mallow, and you have only five seconds to prevent the punishment due you.
1953 A. Norton Star Rangers ii.30 He sensed alien life.
1958 R. Silverberg Invaders from Earth (1987) iii. 30 How can they? They're just primitive alien beings.
1958 R. Silverberg Invaders from Earth (1987) ii. 17 Kennedy found himself staring at an alien landscape, oddly quiet, oddly disturbing. Bleak whiteness confronted him: the whiteness of an almost endless snowfield.
1964 G. Roddenberry Let. to F. Bachelin 10 Dec. in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ (1968) i. vii. 110 It should be seen from the outside of the fortress and used again on the inside of the fortress to give ‘alien’ unity to the whole set.
1974 U. K. Le Guin Dispossessed (1975) i.2 An alien crewman jumping ship.
1975 C. L. Moore Bright Illusion in L. del Rey Best of C. L. Moore (1978) 79 Their emotions and habits and purposes were alien to all his experience, and among them even the sexes were not those he knew. They were more numerous than mankind's two, and their functions were entirely different. Reproduction here was based on an utterly alien principle.
1975 C. L. Moore Black God's Kiss in L. del Rey Best of C. L. Moore (1978) 121 She stood there for a full minute, reluctant to enter the place where so alien a being dwelt, half-conscious of that voiceless compulsion growing up within her.
1975 C. L. Moore Black God's Kiss in L. del Rey Best of C. L. Moore (1978) 122 And through the union of that kiss—warm-blooded woman with image of nameless stone—through the meeting of their mouths something entered into her very soul; something cold and stunning; something alien beyond any words. It lay upon her shuddering soul like some frigid weight from the void, a bubble holding something unthinkably alien and dreadful.
1979 M. Z. Bradley Stormqueen! (1991) p. v The reader sees the new world, future or fantasy, through the eyes of the citizen of the 20th century, suddenly transformed into a strange and alien world.
1985 S. Sucharitkul Alien Swordmaster i. i. 5 We stopped to couple with every alien life form we conquered.
1987 M. Crichton Sphere 15 Let's soften that to say ‘contact’: alien contact.
1990 Thrust Winter 6/2 Ore describes the growing pains of becoming alien amidst conflicting aliens who must nevertheless work together.
1991 O. S. Card Xenocide ii. 24 An alien species seems bent on destroying us.
1993 K. S. Robinson Red Mars iii. 89 They had stumbled upon a long-abandoned alien spaceport.