We kind of take it for granted now after 35-odd years, but the name The Force really is quite brilliant.

What's the origin and story behind (I'm assuming) George Lucas coming up with it?

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    "The Force really is quite brilliant." 'Opposites': The Encourage, The Weakness, The Forced.. Meh.. I don't think it is quite so brilliant. Dec 16, 2015 at 6:37
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    @AndrewThompson: what exactly do you try to tell us with that?
    – Zaibis
    Dec 16, 2015 at 12:09
  • 2
    "what exactly do you try to tell us with that?" What exactly don't you understand? Dec 16, 2015 at 12:10
  • 5
    @AndrewThompson everything before the "Meh.. I don't think it is quite so brilliant." Dec 16, 2015 at 15:15
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    @AndrewThompson: I believe based on the comment upvote patterns that people really don't understand your comment. Personally, I only barely do, maybe, but I'm not sure. It's confusing because you're giving pseudo-antonyms for 'force' used not in the sense of that implied by 'The Force'. And it's not clear why either? Obviously your sense of humour is just not coming through and it's just confusing people. Dec 16, 2015 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


Lucas has attributed the origins of "The Force" to a 1964 abstract film called "21-87" by Arthur Lipsett.

The rabbit hole goes even deeper: One of the audio sources Lipsett sampled for 21-87 was a conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren S. McCulloch and Roman Kroitor, a cinematographer who went on to develop Imax. In the face of McCulloch's arguments that living beings are nothing but highly complex machines, Kroitor insists that there is something more: "Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God."

When asked if this was the source of "the Force," Lucas confirms that his use of the term in Star Wars was "an echo of that phrase in 21-87." The idea behind it, however, was universal: "Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the 'life force,'" he says.

Source: Wired - Life After Darth

  • 4
    Curiously enough, the German localisation uses "Die Macht" (which I'd rather translate as power), while one'd certainly translate "life force" with "Lebenskraft" and thus "Die Kraft" would have been more adequate...
    – Zommuter
    Dec 16, 2015 at 12:17
  • Indeed. I tried to add that to the German Wikipedia but of course it was immediately removed..
    – TaW
    Dec 16, 2015 at 14:38
  • Die Macht I'd go for power from my poor memories of German :P. Dec 16, 2015 at 14:39
  • @Zommuter, I guess they where trying to advoid the else inevitable "Kraft durch Freude" jokes (and related connotations). Dec 16, 2015 at 19:43
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    @EikePierstorff I never thought of that before, but could indeed be. Sad thing that so many words have a bitter taste even today...
    – Zommuter
    Dec 16, 2015 at 20:42

Lucas has attributed the origins of "The Force" to a 1963 abstract film by Arthur Lipsett, which sampled from many sources.

"Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God."

- Wikipedia "The Force"

There you go.

  • Source for this quote? Dec 16, 2015 at 5:58
  • Wikipedia "The Force"
    – user57282
    Dec 16, 2015 at 5:58
  • A film called 21-87
    – user57282
    Dec 16, 2015 at 5:59
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    @PlasmaStarfish "A film called 21-87" as in Han's line "Let's see which cell this princess of yous is in... uh... 21-87, you go an get her"? Whoa!
    – RedCaio
    Dec 16, 2015 at 6:15
  • 3
    Whoa a wild reference appeared
    – user57282
    Dec 16, 2015 at 7:02

One source may be Edward Bulwer-Lytton's vril. In his 1871 novel The Coming Race, reprinted as Vril, the Power of the Coming Race, Bulwer-Lytton refers to "the vril power" and "the terrible force of vril".

The novel is out of copyright and published online here.

"What is the vril?" I asked.

Therewith Zee began to enter into an explanation of which I understood very little, for there is no word in any language I know which is an exact synonym for vril. I should call it electricity, except that it comprehends in its manifold branches other forces of nature, to which, in our scientific nomenclature, differing names are assigned, such as magnetism, galvanism, &c. These people consider that in vril they have arrived at the unity in natural energetic agencies, which has been conjectured by many philosophers above ground, and which Faraday thus intimates under the more cautious term of correlation:

"I have long held an opinion," says that illustrious experimentalist, "almost amounting to a conviction, in common, I believe, with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest, have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent that they are convertible, as it were into one another, and possess equivalents of power in their action. These subterranean philosophers assert that by one operation of vril, which Faraday would perhaps call 'atmospheric magnetism,' they can influence the variations of temperature--in plain words, the weather; that by operations, akin to those ascribed to mesmerism, electro-biology, odic force, &c., but applied scientifically, through vril conductors, they can exercise influence over minds, and bodies animal and vegetable, to an extent not surpassed in the romances of our mystics. To all such agencies they give the common name of vril."

And later

"I have spoken so much of the Vril Staff that my reader may expect me to describe it. This I cannot do accurately, for I was never allowed to handle it for fear of some terrible accident occasioned by my ignorance of its use; and I have no doubt that it requires much skill and practice in the exercise of its various powers. It is hollow, and has in the handle several stops, keys, or springs by which its force can be altered, modified, or directed--so that by one process it destroys, by another it heals--by one it can rend the rock, by another disperse the vapour--by one it affects bodies, by another it can exercise a certain influence over minds. It is usually carried in the convenient size of a walking-staff, but it has slides by which it can be lengthened or shortened at will. When used for special purposes, the upper part rests in the hollow of the palm with the fore and middle fingers protruded. I was assured, however, that its power was not equal in all, but proportioned to the amount of certain vril properties in the wearer in affinity, or 'rapport' with the purposes to be effected."

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