There was a thread some years ago about the earliest use of the phrase "human being":

When was the word 'being' first used to refer to a human being or sentient being?

I found a citation that is earlier than any of those mentioned. Having no "reputation" here, I can't comment or answer on that thread, but apparently I can post my answer as a question. There is a use of the phrase in Richard Hooker's 1590 "Ecclesiastical Polity" vol. 5.enter image description here It is quoted in Samuel Johnson's dictionary, to illustrate the word "unapprehended".

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    It's very kind of you to want to share. Can you link to the thread? Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 4:40
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    we can upvote the question to 10 so you get enough rep to post an answer in a locked thread
    – vectory
    Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 4:50
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    or, if you post an answer to your own q, a mod can merge the threads
    – vectory
    Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 4:54
  • Instead of posting the answer as a question, you can post your own version of the question and then answer it yourself.
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 19:38
  • It beats the OED. The first reference it has is from 1694. M. Tindal Let. conc. Trinity & Athanasian Creed iv. 12/1 They [sc. Modes] are the same in Divine, as Posture in human Beings.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 22:27

1 Answer 1


The volume that you show was published by Thomas Newcomb for Andrew Crook (publisher - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Crooke_and_William_Cooke) at the Green-Dragon in St Paul’s Churchyard in 1666. It is dedicated to Charles II and the dedication - an epistle - contains reference to the recent English Civil War (1642–1651). This epistle is signed “Joh Exon.” (Bishop of Exeter – John Gauden (1605 – 23 May 1662)

In the Section “To the Reader” the editor (Andrew Crook) states that he has amended and corrected some of the text of “The Life of Richard Hooker.” The volume then continues with the works of Richard Hooker (25 March, 1554 – 3 November 1600).

Richard Hooker’s works have been more or less in print since he wrote them but the English in many of the editions has been updated as language changes and spelling became more regular.

It is therefore not the original, and although it provides a possible early use of “human being” it cannot be dated with absolute certainty to 1590 - however, this use still predates the OED’s 1694.

The facsimile can be found at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Qm9vJPmhcscC&pg=RA1-PA132&dq=%22They+of+whom+God+is+altogether+unapprehended%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi3557FhozoAhWNFcAKHcaLB50Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22They%20of%20whom%20God%20is%20altogether%20unapprehended%22&f=false

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