Alien Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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If you’ve spent much time watching TV and movies or reading books, you’ve likely encountered the word alien. It’s a common word in modern society and pops up in popular media, literature, and casual conversation. 

However, did you know that there are multiple definitions for this commonplace word? Do you know how this word found its way into the English language? Those are the questions this article seeks to answer. 

Today’s word of the day is alien. By the end of this guide to the word, you’ll have a full understanding of the definition, where this word came from, how to use it, and more. Let’s get started. 

What Is the Meaning of the Word Alien?

There are three different definitions for the word alien, pronounced ˈeɪliən. They all share similar meanings but have a few key differences that set them apart. Here are all of the different


  • A person who comes from a different country, people group, or race (can also be used as an adjective)


  • Unfamiliar, weird, or strange


  • A creature that comes from a planet other than earth (can also be used as an adjective)

As you can see, each definition has its own unique focus, but they all have one thing in common: they depict something foreign or strange. 

One depicts a person from a different country, one defines a creature from a distant planet, and one represents something that feels different than what’s “normal.”

If something is alien, it means that it is different. This word may imply that the person speaking feels strange or hesitant about the foreign object, person, or creature. The word often carries a sense of mystery and fear with it, which is, in many cases, unfounded. 

Alien: From a Different Country

A person from a different country is often called an alien. 

Sometimes this term is used in a derogatory way, and other times it is used in a legal setting. For example, a person who came from a foreign country illegally is often called an illegal alien. Likewise, a person, whether they’re a citizen of the country or a noncitizen, taking permanent residence in another country is called a resident alien. 

Alien: From a Different Planet

A life form that comes from a different planet is a common element found in science-fiction books, movies, and TV shows. 

Extraterrestrial life from outer space is an entertaining and fascinating concept to think about and discuss. This is why we see so much media about space aliens of all kinds. Some are friends; some are foes, and others are a bit ambiguous.

Where Did the Word Alien Come From?

To help us better understand the word alien, let’s take a look at the etymology of this word — the history of how it came to be. 

The word alien, like so many other words in the English language, comes from Latin. Specifically, its oldest ancestor is the Latin word alius, which simply means “other.” This word is the root for other words in the English language, including the word alias. 

If you want to break it down even further, you can look to the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root al-,” which means “beyond.” 

The Latin word alius became the root word for another Latin word, alienus, which can mean “belonging to someone else” or “stranger, a foreigner.” 

As time went on, this Latin word made its way into other languages, specifically Old French. The Old French word alien has the same meaning as the Latin word alienus.  

It wasn’t until the 1300s that the word made its way into Middle English. From then on, it kept its spelling and its meaning. The definition didn’t change or evolve for centuries until the popularization of science fiction in the 1950s. 

The first usage of the word alien when referring to an extraterrestrial being was in about 1953. This definition has been in use ever since. The introduction of this definition caused the overall usage of the word alien to skyrocket due to the immense popularity of the concept of life from another world. 

Alien in Other Languages

Here’s what the word word alien looks like in languages other than English:

  • Portuguese: estrangeiro
  • French: étranger
  • German: fremd or ausländer
  • Danish: fremmed
  • Czech: cizinec
  • Italian: straniero
  • Thai: ต่างด้าว
  • Korean: 외국인
  • Japanese: 外国

What Are Some Examples of Alien Used in a Sentence?

Here are some example sentences that use the word alien to help you understand more about the meaning of this word and how it is used. 


  • My uncle swears that he saw a UFO crash in the woods with a live alien inside of it, and I think he’s being legit.

  • I have a theory that NASA is hiding information about aliens from the general public. 
  • If I ever met an alien, I would do everything I could to try and communicate with it and make peace.

  • Do you think aliens have superpowers, or are they normal humanoids like us?

From a Different Country

  • My cousin is an illegal alien, and I’m afraid he’ll get deported.

  • There is a large community of Latino people who are resident aliens near the southern border. 

Strange or Weird

  • I grew up in the city, so going out to that small town felt so alien to me.

  • Even though I had seen people use the machine on TV, using it myself felt alien.

What Are the Synonyms for the Word Alien?

Here are some synonyms for the word alien that you might find in a thesaurus. 

  • Foreigner
  • Immigrant
  • Outsider
  • Refugee
  • Visitor
  • Noncitizen
  • Exotic
  • Unusual
  • Extraterrestrial
  • Martian
  • Otherworldly

What Are Antonyms for Alien?

Here are some antonyms for the word alien. 

  • Normal
  • Familiar
  • Regular
  • Usual

Final Thoughts on the Word Alien

Now you know everything you need to know about the definition of the word alien, where it comes from, and how to use it. Use it confidently in your conversation and your writing. Of course, if you need a refresher on the word alien, come back to this article for the information you need. 


ALIEN | Cambridge English Dictionary 

ALIEN English Definition and Meaning | Lexico

Definition: alien from 8 USC § 1101(a)(3) | LII / Legal Information Institute | Cornell Law