Earthling

Earthling

[urth-ling]

Earthling refers to an individual of a species originating from earth. Historically the term referred to a mortal inhabitant of the earth (as opposed to immortals from the underworld or heaven.)

Etymology

The term earthling is originally from Old English eorðe (ground, soil, dry land) and the suffix -ling (from Old English -ol, -ul, -el; and -ing, meaning "a person or thing of a specific kind or origin". First used in 1593, earthling (or worldling) referred to a mortal inhabitant of earth as opposed to one from heaven or the underworld.

The first use of the word in the contemporary sense was by science fiction author, Robert A. Heinlein, in Red Planet, 1949.

Usage

  • Mistakenly thought of as only referring to humans, the term may refer to any species: "Russia fetes dog Laika, first earthling in space".
  • The term was often used in 1950's science fiction film and novels by aliens to express a disdainful or patronising tone towards creatures from Earth, however, the term itself carries neither a negative nor a positive tone.
  • Sentient, non-biological forms may also be referred to as earthlings if they originated from earth.

See also

References

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