Legend says that Ursula K. Le Guin coined the word ansible as an anagram of lesbian in "Rocannon's World" (looong before Orson Scott Card).

Is this known to be true (the anagram part)? [citation needed]

  • I believe she never confirmed it and even and according to Dave Goldman's y.2001 post she claimed it she got it from answerable... I can also make out a basil out of it :D
    – Darius
    Sep 17, 2013 at 6:25
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    Note that Card doesn't claim to have invented the word, since right there when it's first mentioned in Ender's Game, he says "Someone got the name from an old book". It's an oblique but definite nod.
    – Ryan Reich
    May 10, 2014 at 4:11
  • I'd always assumed that the word had something to do with "ANSI" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…), which I've often seen in connection with computer encodings (especially on old computers), but on looking it up I see that the organisation wasn't called that until 1969 and "Rocannon's World" came out in 1966.
    – A. B.
    Mar 12, 2021 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


Ursula Le Guin has stated that she coined the term because "it sounded like answerable." She's only addressed that once on record, though - in 2001, Usenet user Dave Goldman posted the following to rec.arts.sf.written (as archived on Google Groups):

I've just started a writing workshop from Ms. Le Guin, so I asked her...
Turns out that she derived "ansible" from "answerable".

  • This answer originally claimed that Le Guin provided this info in "interviews" but had mentioned it "only once" - the only source I can find for this is the Usenet post now quoted in the answer, but if there are in fact interview sources then those should be added as well.
    – recognizer
    Jan 19, 2018 at 0:42
  • @recognizer if, as an explanation, it's good enough for OED, surely it's good enough for us mere mortals...
    – AakashM
    Jan 19, 2018 at 10:42
  • @AakashM If the OED is taking the word of a random Usenet post, we should rather begin to doubt the OED.
    – msouth
    May 23, 2019 at 14:57

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