sophont

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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.

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Noun[edit]

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, Anderson, Poul, 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.

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