In the scientific taxonomy of Living Things, you have:

  • Life
  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class

etc. down to Species, and maybe thence to Breed.

If I were talking about my neighbor's dog who is half Chihuahua and half German Shepherd (no she is, really), I would say her parents had a "cross-breed romance." (they are both of the species Canis lupus familiaris)

If I were talking about a mule, I would say the mare and the male donkey had a "cross-species romance." (they are both of the genus Equus)

And so on and so forth up the improbable chain. In a science-fiction setting, you can cross a Vulcan and a Terran and have a viable hybrid child, even though they come from two different planets and shouldn't even share a Kingdom, let alone enough genetic similarities to breed.

But what's the "cross-" when you have a romance between biological life and non-biological life? For example, if Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine and the Emergency Medical Hologram had actually had a relationship? Or when Data dated Jenna D'Sora (TNG's "In Theory")? (The Holodoc is a software-based lifeform; Data is a hardware-based lifeform.)

I am establishing such a romance between two characters, and I've no idea what to call it. (Of course, figuring out what to call it may wind up in dialogue as part of establishing it, because they don't know what to call it either.)

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    +1 for such an original question :D Unfortunately, I have no idea how to answer it. Cross-life? Cross-lifeform? – Tannalein Dec 19 '12 at 23:10
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    I know, but if i joined either board I would NEVER EVER GET OFF THE INTERNET. :) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Dec 20 '12 at 10:56
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    @LaurenI, If it keeps eluding you, you can always fall back to "cross-definition romance"! However you define your being as, well, being, then my being can love them from across definitions! To find a term for that you'll have to define what they have in common and make that a superset of what they are. If both are AIs (or anything similar) then it can be "cross-chip", where "sentience" could be its superset, like "species" is to "breed". – Mussri Dec 21 '12 at 15:36
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    @LaurenI, Actually, here it is. "Sapience" is the superset, "sentience" is the subset, since both parties can 'sense' and 'process' their sensory information, but in different ways, they're both sentient and sapient, sentient (organic, inorganic, ...), sapient in the same way. I don't think there could be two ways of sapience anyway. So, using something Latin, I have "trans-sentient romance"! Phew! – Mussri Jan 12 '13 at 11:19
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    @LaurenI, 'Sapient' is 'thinking', 'wise' or 'capable of abstract thought' while 'sentience' is the ability to sense and of being aware of it. In other words, 'sentience' is consciousness (many animals have that, they just need to be able to feel and act on feelings while limited by their range of sensory info) while 'sapience' is being aware of sentience and being capable to act on that while unconstrained by the limits of the sources of sensory info. – Mussri Jan 12 '13 at 16:30

This is a tough question and it's been in my brain all day. I've been trying to really think about what separates these two groups, which I hoped would lead me to what brought them together. At first I was thinking about sentience, but it doesn't sound like you have a person falling in love with a rock, but instead robots (or something akin).

So then I was trying to move along the biological route:

  • Organic vs Inorganic
  • Natural vs Synthetic
  • Carbon vs Non-carbon

The hard part is of course not finding the differences, though, but where these differences would intersect. The groups these fall into (the [blank] in your cross-[blank]) are perhaps a bit generic:

  • Chemistry
  • Matter
  • Composition
  • Compound
  • Carbonality (this of course isn't a word, but it may be my favorite anyway)

Hopefully these at least might send you in the right direction.

Another I just thought of that is super-generic but might work with enough context is cross-composition.

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    So how about "cross-carbonality" or "cross-carbon" or "inter-carbonality" romance? – JAM Dec 20 '12 at 19:11
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    I like "cross-carbon," although that does technically rule out Hortas (which are silicon-based lifeforms). However, getting it on with a two-meter asbestos pan pizza with acidic saliva is going to be problematic no matter what you call it. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Dec 20 '12 at 20:07
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    @JAM I like inter-carbonality. It's got an edge... – Joel Shea Dec 20 '12 at 20:28
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    @LaurenIpsum I would very much like to read whatever this is you are writing. It sounds graphic in the best way. – Joel Shea Dec 20 '12 at 20:29
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    I was kinda hoping for a signed copy and a major character to be named after me, but whatever you think is best... – Joel Shea Dec 28 '12 at 14:29

I assume that the object of affection is material and therefore based upon an element of our Periodic Table (although not Carbon).

Would the romance then be cross-elemental?


Nonhomogeneous romance... ? Anthropomorphic romance... ? Technosexual romance... ?

Anthropomorphic technosexuality . . . God, that rolls off the tongue nicely. So many syllables. What a beautiful phrase. Cellar door be damned.

  • You know, it's funny you ask this question. I'm writing a story with the same premise-- a human falls in love with a holographic AI. Great minds... – temporary_user_name Dec 24 '12 at 5:45
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    The problem with "anthropomorphic" is that it means "assigning human characteristics to something which doesn't have them," like assuming a cat can talk. The AI is not anthropomorphized. It actually does have some human characteristics. "Anthropomorphic technosexual romance" would be a human acting as if his iPod has fallen in love with him because Shuffle constantly kicks up Josh Groban songs, and then the human starting to feel love for the iPod in return. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Dec 24 '12 at 12:57
  • Now, "technosexual" itself has a lot of potential as a general descriptor, either of the human/AI romance and/or someone's orientation. Still not the "cross-", though. (And +1 for "cellar door be damned." :D so true!) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Dec 24 '12 at 12:58
  • I have a hunch the exact word you're looking for may not exist, being rather...*limited*...in its usage. You might just have to originate a term yourself. – temporary_user_name Dec 25 '12 at 2:57

How about a "cross-lifeform" romance or

"cross-sentient-being" romance?


I'm not familiar with this "domain" level in taxonomy. That must be a new idea since I was in school. Of course Linnaeus originally defined the kingdom as the highest level, and he identified three kingdoms: plants, animals, and minerals. When I was in school I was taught that biologists debated whether things like fungi should not be broken out into a separate kingdom, etc.

If you had interbreeding between an animal and plant -- however one imagines that might be possible! -- that would be "cross-kingdom".

If someone managed to create a holographic life form or a mechanical life form, to my mind that would qualify as another kingdom. It seems to me that the difference between plant and animal would be analagous to the difference between either and holographic life.

It's hard to say where aliens would fit in the existing taxonomy. Would they be similar enough to us that they could be considered new phyla, etc, in the existing kingdoms and classes? That seems unlikely to me. Whether you're supposing evolution or creation, either way I'd expect aliens from another planet to be more different from humans than, say, a bird or an octopus is different from humans. So maybe if we met aliens we'd create new kingdoms for them, or maybe we'd have to create another level, above kingdoms (or domains), one for "terran" and another for "vulcan" or whatever, and then have subdivisions within each.

As you're inventing the aliens or whatever these life forms are, I think it's up to you to decide where they fit in taxonomy. Consider both what you believe to be scientifically plausible and what works in the context of your story. Then just make something up.


The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed (apart from solar and cosmic radiation), and self-regulating system.

I think, if we think in interplanetary terms instead of our little xenophobic terracentric little box, a biosphere can be defined as an entirety of lifeforms forming a closed system - usually inhabiting a planet.

A cross-biospheric romance then?

Another option would be cross-lifeform but that doesn't really restrict as far apart as much as 'biosphere' but may encompass lifeforms that don't happen to live as parts of biospheres (a unique pan-universal deity?)

  • Cross-biospheric would work for Terrans and Vulcans. It wouldn't cover Data and Lt. D'Sora, as that could have happened on our planet. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Dec 20 '12 at 20:06

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