alien

1 of 3

adjective

ˈā-lē-ən How to pronounce alien (audio)
ˈāl-yən
1
a
: belonging or relating to another person, place, or thing : strange
an alien environment
b
: relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government : foreign
alien residents
c
: exotic sense 1
alien plants
d
: coming from another world : extraterrestrial
alien beings
an alien spaceship
When it comes to knowing what alien life forms might be like, we don't have any idea.Kate Shuster
2
: differing in nature or character typically to the point of incompatibility
ideas alien to democracy
alienly adverb
alienness
ˈā-lē-ən-nəs How to pronounce alien (audio)
ˈāl-yən-nəs
noun

alien

2 of 3

noun

1
a
: a person who is not of a particular group or place
aliens seeking asylum in the U.S.
In this way it came to pass that those scattered linen-weavers—emigrants from the town into the country—were to the last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbours …George Eliot
… she whom we had deemed so … pious, at last died an alien from the church …Delia Salter Bacon
b
: a foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country
broadly : a foreign-born citizen
2
: extraterrestrial
a movie about an invasion of Earth by monstrous aliens
3
: exotic sense 1
Russian thistle, kudzu, and other aliens

alien

3 of 3

verb

aliened; aliening; aliens

transitive verb

1
2
: to transfer the title of (property)
Choose the Right Synonym for alien

extrinsic, extraneous, foreign, alien mean external to a thing, its essential nature, or its original character.

extrinsic applies to what is distinctly outside the thing in question or is not contained in or derived from its essential nature.

sentimental value that is extrinsic to the house's market value

extraneous applies to what is on or comes from the outside and may or may not be capable of becoming an essential part.

arguments extraneous to the issue

foreign applies to what is so different as to be rejected or repelled or to be incapable of becoming assimilated.

techniques foreign to French cuisine

alien is stronger than foreign in suggesting opposition, repugnance, or irreconcilability.

a practice totally alien to her nature

Examples of alien in a Sentence

Adjective they were careful to learn of any alien business customs before trying to expand overseas it's completely alien to her nature to wish evil of anyone Noun aliens seeking asylum in the U.S. He claims that he was captured by space aliens. Verb such angry outbursts will rapidly alien any friends you might possibly have left the couple plans to alien the adjoining house lot to their eldest son
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
And once again, there is an alien bringing the group together, this time a woman named Max, all under the roof of a luxurious villa along the Mediterranean Sea. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Apr. 2024 Directed by Weyes Blood, Ambar Navarro, and Colton Stock, the visual stars the musician as an astronaut and an alien riding a meteor. Nina Corcoran, Pitchfork, 15 Apr. 2024 Whereas the former felt lustrous, massive, and magnetically alien, The Sunset Violent feels more desolate and unnerving. Margaret Farrell, SPIN, 12 Apr. 2024 Both versions of the multiverse increase the probability of alien life existing somewhere. Paul M. Sutter, Discover Magazine, 2 Apr. 2024 From there, radio telescopes can peer into the universe’s past to a time before the stars formed—or search for evidence of technologically advanced alien life, writes the Guardian. Christian Thorsberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Mar. 2024 The incident gives rise to her disdain for humanity and her subsequent decision to invite an alien civilization to conquer Earth. Hong, who plays physicist Jin Cheng, said the show leaves the beginning intact while the changes broaden the story’s focus. Tony Lee, NBC News, 25 Mar. 2024 The story, written by friends Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, reveals Superman’s origins as an alien child sent to Earth to escape the destruction of his planet, and introduces his love interest, Lois Lane. Issy Ronald, CNN, 5 Apr. 2024 In addition to his murder charges, the husband was charged with alien inadmissibility. Mike Stunson, Kansas City Star, 4 Apr. 2024
Noun
With green aliens dancing in the background, Smith sang a portion of the catchy tune and resurrected dance moves from the music video. Sandra Gonzalez, CNN, 15 Apr. 2024 Smith and Balvin rapped the song together, while backup dancers dressed as aliens and a giant alien head prop added to the effect. Kimberly Nordyke, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Apr. 2024 As the track reached the iconic dance breakdown, the pair performed the steps in unison together, along with the backing dancers who were also dressed as agents and aliens. Escher Walcott, Peoplemag, 15 Apr. 2024 Your parent must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico. Medora Lee, USA TODAY, 10 Apr. 2024 But even as hopes for a biosignature detection soar, some scientists are starting to openly ask whether gases in the atmosphere of an exoplanet will ever be convincing evidence for aliens. Elise Cutts, WIRED, 7 Apr. 2024 Places like Stonehenge give rise to theories that include everything from ancient druids to signs of the influence of aliens on ancient human civilizations. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 27 Mar. 2024 The visuals are also cool, the aliens appropriately enigmatic, and the performances excellent. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 23 Mar. 2024 For Laurent, the idea and the images came first — what if Babar were abducted by aliens, or practiced yoga? Penelope Green, New York Times, 22 Mar. 2024
Verb
The film follows a ragtag group of actors (played by Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, among other stars) from an ‘80s sci-fi series who aliens unexpectedly abduct during a convention appearance. Matt Juul, BostonGlobe.com, 7 July 2023 In particular, artist Bryan Hitch's work with writer Mark Millar on The Ultimates made the Avengers cool and provided a useful blueprint for the eventual Marvel Cinematic Universe (from inventing the Chitauri aliens to drawing Nick Fury to look like Samuel L. Jackson). Christian Holub, EW.com, 22 Feb. 2023 While on Earth, Thomas patents alien technology and gets very rich, with the intention of using it to build a vessel to bring water home. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Sep. 2022 But even that description fails to capture what Yagi is after: those parts of us, precious and possibly hostile, which flower in darkness, disintegrate when described, and can be compared only to alien life-forms. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 Neanderthal to alien, and yet strangely well-suited for the modern era. Nick Remsen, CNN, 30 Sep. 2021 These stars and related systems should be priority one for current and future efforts to seek out exoplanets that may bear not only life but perhaps even alien technological civilizations, some astronomers say. Tess Joosse, Scientific American, 1 July 2021 Can alien smog lead us to extraterrestrial civilizations? Whitson Gordon, Wired, 8 Apr. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alien.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English, "foreign," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin aliēnus "not one's own, of others, foreign, strange," derivative of alius "other" (perhaps going back to *aliai-nos, from an adverbialized locative derivative *aliai "elsewhere") — more at else

Noun

Middle English, "foreigner, outsider," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin aliēnus "slave belonging to another person, foreigner, stranger," noun derivative of aliēnus, adjective, "not one's own, foreign" — more at alien entry 1

Verb

Middle English alienen "to transfer or surrender property rights, exclude," borrowed from Anglo-French aliener (Middle French, "to estrange, deprive of reason"), borrowed from Latin alienāre "to transfer (goods, property), lose possession of, render hostile" — more at alienate

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of alien was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near alien

Cite this Entry

“Alien.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alien. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

alien

1 of 2 adjective
ˈā-lē-ən How to pronounce alien (audio)
ˈāl-yən
1
: relating or belonging to another country : foreign
alien residents
2
3
: wholly different in nature or character
opinions alien to his outlook

alien

2 of 2 noun
1
: a resident who was born elsewhere and is not a citizen of the country in which he or she now lives
2
: a being that comes from or lives in another world : extraterrestrial
3
: exotic

Legal Definition

alien

1 of 3 adjective
: relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government

alien

2 of 3 noun
: a foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country
illegal aliens
an alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residenceU.S. Code

alien

3 of 3 transitive verb
Etymology

Adjective

Latin alienus not one's own, foreign

More from Merriam-Webster on alien

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!