ByRory O'Connor, writer at
Breathing movies. Humbly writing about them.
Rory O'Connor

Ever wonder where "Blast-off" and "Beam" really came from? Did the terms originate in the real world or was it in the literary world of science fiction instead? Well, as is usually the case with the great website, the hard working folk over at IO9 have put together this fascinating list of science fiction etymology to answer those itching questions.

The whole list is certainly worth checking out but here's some choice cuts to get you going.


While the word "beam" evokes visions of Captain Kirk saying, "Beam me up, Scotty," beam already refers to the transport of matter in the "Matter Transmitter" entry in the 1951 Dictionary of Science Fiction. "Beamed" is used as a verb to describe how matter transmitters work... It's an example of a term coming about not from science fiction itself, but from descriptions of science fiction.


Who shot a blaster first? The (rather mysterious) writer Nictzin Dyalhis is believed to have first referred to a scifi gun as a "blastor" (with an "o") in When the Green Star Waned, an early entry into the space opera genre, published in Weird Tales in 1925:


"Cyberspace" is one of those words that has quickly traveled from science fiction into the mainstream vernacular. The word comes, not surprisingly, from that cyberpunk master William Gibson, appearing first in his 1982 short story Burning Chrome.


The word "utopia" was famously coined by Thomas More for his 1516 work of political philosophy, using the Greek words for "good" (ευ), "not" (οὐ), and "place" (τόπος) so that utopia at once means "good place" and "not place." Dystopia also first shows up in a work of political philosophy, in a 1868 speech by John Stuart Mill before the British House of Commons. We could have ended up with a different word to describe our anti-utopias, however; in 1818, Jeremy Bentham (the same man whose skeleton and head sit preserved in University College London) coined the term cacotopia (from the Greek κακόs, meaning "bad"), a word that Mill also uses in his speech to the House of Commons.

Any of the entries pique your interest or is there another word you've always wanted to know the meaning of? Tell us about it below.


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