10 November 2023

Science fiction neologisms

meat puppet: the human body; a physical human being, especially in contrast to virtual reality or artificial intelligence

overmind: a single, nonmaterial consciousness composed of the consciousnesses of a large number of beings

corpsicle: a cryogenically frozen person; someone in cold sleep; (occasionally) a frozen corpse

dirtsider: a person who lives on a planet (in contrast to a person who lives or frequently travels in space)

telempath: a person who has the psionic ability to sense others’ emotions

transhuman: a person who has gained abilities, through genetic engineering or cybernetic augmentation, sufficiently advanced that they are regarded as a different species

posthuman: a descendant of humans who is sufficiently different from present-day humans in form or capability to be regarded as a new species

unperson: a person who, usually for political reasons, is deemed not to have existed and whose name is removed from all public records; a person regarded as less than human
Excerpts from a list in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, an online resource that began as a project of the Oxford English Dictionary, via Harper's.


  1. Passing that "Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction" link along to the "A Way With Words" folks.

  2. Corpsicle is a good one. I thought it was coined by Larry Niven, but it turns out he borrowed it from Frederick Pohl. Even funnier was when Bruce Willis referred to himself as a Meat Byproduct in The Fifth Element.

    1. Larry did predict flash-mobs and organlegging.

  3. In NYC, the frozen bodies of transients found in the city's waterways were referred to as "bumsicles."

  4. "Unperson" sounds a lot like Ancient Rome's "homo sacer"...


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