Full record for prime directive n.

Definition a rule or law that overrides or guides other rules or laws; in particular a rule forbidding interference in the affairs of aliens which have not yet achieved space travel
OED requirements antedating 1956
Earliest cite Poul Anderson, "The Live Coward"
Comment Rick Hauptmann submitted a 1947 cite from Jack Williamson's "With Folded Hands".
Dave Langford pointed out that the sense of the phrase there was of inbuilt programming, similar to Asimov's laws of robotics. He submitted a 1956 cite from Poul Anderson's "The Live Coward", in which the phrase was used in the "non-interference" sense popularized by Star Trek.

The OED has later cites from Star Trek, and other, non-sf, sources.

Last modified 5 August, 2009

Citations for prime directive n.

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1974 J. Blish Star Trek 10 143 It's added up a few scanty observations—and clicked to the conclusion I've violated the Prime Directive!
1985 B. Hambly Ishmael xviii.235 They'd seen thousands of them on planets that the Prime Directive had forbidden them to touch.
1990 D. Kramer-Rolls Home is Hunter ii. 12 Attention to the Prime Directive meant trying not to come stomping through people's backyards with a veritable army.
1994 SFRA Rev. July 37 Star Trek fans are quite familiar with the concept of the Prime Directive, or non-interference in alien life.
1995 Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch Star Trek Voyager: Escape xxii. 223 She knew that with the same bone-deep certainty she had had when she had stared in the face of the Prime Directive and decided to strand her people in the Delta Quadrant rather than take the easy route home.
1996 W. Shatner Return i. 5 Though the ship was beyond salvage, in accordance with the Prime Directive no trace of it could remain on this world.
1997 J. Sherman & S. Shwartz Vulcan's Forge xiv. 166 It was one thing to, well, bend the Prime Directive a bit.
1997 J. Sherman & S. Shwartz Vulcan's Forge i. 2 Introduce them to a better life without, of course, damaging the Prime Directive.
1998 W. Shatner et al. Spectre vi. 65 Our Prime Directive prevents us from taking action there.
1998 L. A. Graf & M. J. Friedman War Dragons xvii. 268 In violation of the Prime Directive, the captain reluctantly restored the balance of power.
2001 Sci Fi June 6/2 It's safe to say that the closest Lexx will ever come to a Prime Directive is that, no matter how dire the situation, Stanley Tweedle shall not lose his hat.