In the context especially of science fiction, when we humans go to the alien world and apply our technology to alter the temperature, atmospheric composition, flora and fauna, to be more familiar and comfortable to us, this is called terraforming.

This word, by incorporating the Latin root Terra, almost necessarily implies Earth. The word in Latin essentially means "Earth shaping." Our modern novels, movies, and television abound with examples of taking something else, and making it Earth-like.

But what if the aliens turn the tables on us? They come here, make things hotter, pump some sulfur to the air, give the daylight an eerie green cast, plant some weird trees with purple spiky fruits, and so on. Can this also be called terraforming, or is there an equivalent without the reference to Earth?

As a specific example, the Masters in John Christopher's The Tripods were planning to __________ the Earth, thereby eliminating humanity.

Either a single word or a succinct multi-word phrase will do.

EDIT (In response to close votes, "Please include the research you’ve done"): I've read a couple articles on terraforming, to see if any refer to other variants. I've done web searches on: "opposite of terraforming" and "other types of terraforming" and read several results, finding nothing I could use. I also searched words like "martiforming" "joviforming" and "planetenforming" just on a lark, to see if anyone is actually using these words- the few results were generally not in English.

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    Planetary Engineering? – BladorthinTheGrey May 23 '18 at 13:11
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    Terraforming is still appropriate ... but trying to translate such to an alien language is off topic. – lbf May 23 '18 at 13:33
  • @lbf - What makes you think I am translating to an alien language? I want an English word or phrase. – cobaltduck May 23 '18 at 14:09
  • This is opinion based since no planet has yet been 'terraformed' (nor is it ever likely to be) and SETI has yet to come up with any data whatsoever that justifies its own existence. – Nigel J May 23 '18 at 20:41
  • @NigelJ- And yet, the word terraforming exists. – cobaltduck May 23 '18 at 20:43

A term from various science fiction sources, that doesn't include the word terra at all, is simply xenoforming:

A term logically based on the more familiar Terraforming, to denote the (usually gradual) transformation of a world to suit Alien rather than Earth-human Biology and Ecology.

The highest sf drama arises when xenoforming attempts are initiated by Extraterrestrials wishing to transform Earth for their own purposes. The Red Weed introduced by invading Martians in H G Wells's The War of the Worlds (1898) may be intended as part of such a process. Xenoforming of Earth takes place successfully in Thomas M Disch's The Genocides (1965), where humanity is reduced to vermin infesting alien crops; unsuccessfully, thanks to a little help from other aliens, by a spectrum of electromechanically based lifeforms in Philip E High's No Truce with Terra (1964 dos); and with uncertain outcome in David Gerrold's unfinished War Against the Chtorr sequence beginning with A Matter for Men (1983; rev 1989), in which a highly complex and unpleasant alien Ecology establishes itself on Earth. The titular aliens of John Christopher's Tripods trilogy, beginning with The White Mountains (1967), plan to replace Earth's atmosphere with one more like their own once the conquest is complete. In Theodore Sturgeon's "Occam's Scalpel" (August 1971 If), the notion that Earth's ongoing Pollution problem results from attempted xenoforming is presented as a hoax backed by a fake alien, but with a suggestion that this may nevertheless be the truth. Similarly, the film Arrival II (1998) ascribes global warming (see Climate Change) to xenoforming by aliens who want to make Earth as hot as their own dying planet.

Roger Zelazny's "The Keys to December" (August 1966 New Worlds) is a borderline case in which human-descended but Genetically Engineered "Coldworld Catforms", whose intended colony world has been destroyed, resort to transforming another to suit their needs (such as an ambient temperature of minus 50°C).

The Television series Defiance (2013-current) and its Videogame spinoff Defiance (2013) are set on a future Earth much changed by xenoforming; Aliens initiate the process during the action of another Videogame, Crysis (2007); again in television, a planned extraterrestrial transformation of our world has been thwarted some 4000 years ago in the back-story of Steven Universe (2013-current).

The source, linked above, includes some formatting and inline hypertext references that I'm not going to duplicate here. It comes from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction resource site.

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  • Is there a licensing by an acceptably authoritative source? – Edwin Ashworth May 23 '18 at 15:23


While I haven't been able to find many references† to it, Wikipedia user Viriditas used the term:

H. G. Wells alludes to what today might be called xeno-terraforming - alien life altering Earth for their own benefit - in his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds. When the Martians arrive they bring with them a red weed that spreads and (temporarily) overpowers terrestrial vegetation.


Etymologically xeno is used to mean foriegn:

word-forming element meaning "strange, foreign; stranger, foreigner," from Greek xenos "a guest, stranger, foreigner, refugee, guest-friend, one entitled to hospitality"



Alternatively, just using the word terraform seems to be common and simply explaining that someone/something is terraforming Earth to look like their planet etc.


As you will read in the text quote, the author is deliberately vague about the Martians intentions, if any, in terraforming Earth for their use.


So when they came to Earth they were terraforming with the red weed to make Earth more Mars-like. Even though Wells was wrong about the reason for Mars being red, his idea for transforming a host planet was absolutely revolutionary.
-- User Matthew Sparkes (Movies Stack Exchange)

†: http://pages.erau.edu/~andrewsa/Brinkman_terraforming.html

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