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From Ancient Greek σοφός (sophós, wise) + ὤν (ṓn, on), present participle of εἰμί (eimí, being, existing, essence). First used in the 1966 works by Poul Anderson, coined by his wife Karen Anderson.



sophont (plural sophonts)

  1. (chiefly science fiction) An intelligent being; a being with a base reasoning capacity roughly equivalent to or greater than that of a human being. The word does not apply to machines unless they have true artificial intelligence, rather than mere processing capacity.
    • 1966, Poul Anderson, Trouble Twisters:
      Likewise with the psychology of intelligent species. Most sophonts indeed possess basic instincts which diverge more or less from man's. With those of radically alien motivations we have little contact.
    • 1980, David Brin, Sundiver, page 50:
      I'm honored to meet a sophont of the Soro line in person!
    • 1992, Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep, Tor Books, page 406:
      Evil, they argued, could only have meaning on smaller scales, in the hurt that one sophont does to another.
    • 1997, Spider Robinson, Lifehouse, Baen Books, page 2:
      Only one sophont appeared to be involved—and not a sophisticated one.