... like "human" but also applicable to other beings that are generally as intelligent (i.e. capable of complex thought, participation in a society, etc.).

Or must one describe that concept with other words? If so, is there a most-succinct or scientific way of doing so? "Intelligent lifeform"?

  • It has to have an ego?
    – TimR
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:19
  • Yes, I believe so. The context being an attempt to describe different intelligent beings interacting with each other without referring to them as humans- as they may be some other species (fictional).
    – c..
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:20
  • Could it be a blob of some kind? How important is the "form" element?
    – TimR
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:22
  • 2
    If I'm told NASA have discovered an alien lifeform on Europa, I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's something really basic (like plankton, say). But if they say they've discovered alien beings there, I'd naturally assume that meant intelligent beings. So my vote goes for being (of which, as John points out, we currently only know one type - human beings). Commented May 28, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    What is wrong with "sentient"? Just an aside, Frank Herbert coined "ConSentiency" for the political organization that spanned multiple intelligent races.
    – JeffSahol
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 17:57

6 Answers 6


What is wrong with "sapient," which is widely used in science fiction.


Yes, it grates on me every time I hear "sentient" being or creature in books and on screen. A "sentient creature" is one that can sense -so pretty much every creature is a sentient one. I LIKE the word "sapient" mentioned earlier (by RoboKaren) and I'll start using that immediately to mean "a living, thinking/reasoning, aware being".

Sentience -simply means the ability to sense, process senses, to feel.

Conscious -can mean not-unconscious, in other words awake not-dormant.

Aware -can mean focused or hyper-vigilant, or that superpower we call introspection.

Sapient -showing self-awareness, wisdom, sound judgement (reason)

  • 4
    Your suggestions, which are useful, could form an answer but they are marred by a lack of references (and, separately, some personal opinion). On EL&U answers should be supported by some exterior authority: a dictionary definition and/or a named contextual source would be fine.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 9:41

John Norman, in one of the GOR novels, has a Gorean creature use the word "sophont" in this context (something like "I would never injure another sophont")


"Sentient Beings" are more popular in use.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to EL&U! You have the seed of a good answer here, but it has been flagged for review because of how minimal it is. We prefer longer answers that have some explanation of why they are correct, and support for their assertions (for example, a dictionary citation or a corpus search). You can use the "edit" link at the lower left of your answer to add more information. Also be sure to check out the Help Center for more information about asking and answering. Good luck!
    – 1006a
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 17:35

This is what "person" means. From dictionary.com: "5. Philosophy. a self-conscious or rational being."

The word "person" is widely used in science fiction and fantasy, too.

This question comes up a lot on various Stack Exchange sites.



I’m sure a search would provide a modern definition unfulfilling of what you seek if any info at all into this archaic rouser of ruminant remnants.

  • Would you mind terribly doing this search for us first, so that it would be easier to judge?
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 26 at 2:39

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