Full record for mother ship n.

Definition a space craft escorting or having charge of a number of other, usually smaller, craft; one from which other craft are launched or controlled. Frequently with reference to alien craft.
OED requirements antedating 1930
Earliest cite John W. Campbell Jr., 'The Black Star Passes'
Comment Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a reprint of Harlan Ellison's "Run for the Stars"; Mike Christie verified the cite in a 1959 printing. We would like to check the original appearance in 1957 in Science Fiction Adventures. Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a 1965 reprint of E.E. Smith's "Triplanetary", which Alistair Durie verified in the 1934 first publication. Matthew Hoyt submitted a cite from a reprint of Arthur Clarke's "Rescue Party"; Mike Christie verified the 1946 original appearance. Fred Galvin submitted a cite for the form "mother-ship" from a 1982 reprint of Fredric Brown's "Arena" which Mike Christie verified in its 1944 first publication. Fred Galvin submitted a 1930 cite from John W. Campbell Jr.'s "The Black Star Passes"

Added to OED3 as a separate entry in December 2002 with a note about the sf usage.

Last modified 6 July, 2008

Citations for mother ship n.

click here for more information about the citation list

1930 J. W. Campbell Black Star Passes in Amazing Stories Q. Fall 516/1 Since I expect to make long trips in them, I think we will do best if we make several types of ships. Three should suffice: a small single man cruiser, with no bunk or living quarters, just a little power plant and weapon. One that can jump out of the way of a ray so quickly that it will be very hard to hit, and at the same time, because of its ray, be very dangerous. There will have to be some place for the operator of this ship to sleep and eat. I think the easiest way to solve that is to have a large fleet of mother ships—ships with a twenty-man crew, but still very active, and very deadly. These should have bunks and living quarters for the crew. Some men would be sleeping in the bunks all the time. The men could take turns running the one-man ships and sleeping.
1930 J. W. Campbell Black Star Passes in Amazing Stories Q. Fall 516/1 The ships must be capable of about six or seven thousand miles a second, and that implies all the acceleration a human being can endure. Since I expect to make long trips in them, I think we will do best if we make several types of ships. Three should suffice: a small single man cruiser, with no bunk or living quarters, just a little power plant and weapon. One that can jump out of the way of a ray so quickly that it will be very hard to hit, and at the same time, because of its ray, be very dangerous. There will have to be some place for the operator of this ship to sleep and eat. I think the easiest way to solve that is to have a large fleet of mother ships—ships with a twenty-man crew, but still very active, and very deadly. These should have bunks and living quarters for the crew. Some men would be sleeping in the bunks all the time. The men could take turns running the one-man ships and sleeping. There will also be some ten-man scout cruisers. These will be used in the same way, but will have a smaller fleet of ships dependent on them.
1934 E. E. Smith Triplanetary in Amazing Stories Mar. 25/2 As if contemptuous of any weapons the lifeboat might wield, the mother ship simply defended herself from the attacking beams, in much the same fashion as a wildcat mother wards off the claws and teeth of her spitting, snarling kitten who is resenting a touch of needed maternal discipline.
1944 F. Brown Arena in Astounding Sci.-Fiction June 94/1 The scouter, under automatic control, was already entering the hatch of the mother-ship. The grapples pulled it into its individual lock, and a moment later a buzzer indicated that the lock was air-filled.
1959 H. Ellison Run for Stars in Touch of Infinity 41 And here was the bomb, walking through the mother ship.
1965 E. E. Smith Triplanetary 184 As if contemptuous of any weapons the lifeboat might wield, the mother ship simply defended herself from the attacking beams, in much the same fashion as a wildcat mother wards off the claws and teeth of her spitting, snarling kitten who is resenting a touch of needed maternal discipline.
1966 S. Delany Babel-17 iii. i. 128 They made a three-way defensive grid before the mother ship.
1969 M. Z. Bradley Brass Dragon (1980) vii. 125 In eleven hours we will rendezvous with our mother ship, which is in orbit outside of your moon.
1985 S. Sucharitkul Alien Swordmaster i. iii. 15 Our Mother Ship! That is what power is all about, Tomoko!
1991 M. Weiss King's Test i. iii. 18 One giant enemy mothership had been destroyed, but another had come out of nowhere (or hyperspace, which amounted to the same thing).
1993 Sci. Fiction Age Jan. 65/2 We eventually came up with 100 ships in the shot, plus four mother ships!
1994 Sci. Fiction Age July 37/2 That means that the mother ship is buzzing us.
1995 A. Thomson Color of Distance (1999) viii. 84 Was the mother ship gone as well? Had the Kotani Maru made the jump to hyperspace? Could they still come back for her?