unidentified flying object

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An unidentified flying object photographed in Belgium in 1990.


The phrase is usually attributed to Edward J. Ruppelt who coined it as a replacement of the terms flying saucer and flying disk.


unidentified flying object (plural unidentified flying objects)

  1. Anything not readily explainable appearing to move through or be suspended in the air, primarily used to refer to objects that seem to be at least of small familiar aircraft size. Abbreviated UFO.
    The lights seen over the city last night, originally termed unidentified flying objects, turned out to be spotlights from a car dealership reflecting on low clouds.
  2. (colloquial) An alien spacecraft. More commonly called a UFO.