In different sci-fi stories different words are used in different context to speak about changing location in the universe:

  1. Leap - to make a large jump or sudden movement, usually from one place to another
  2. Jump - to move or act suddenly or quickly
  3. Spring - to move quickly and suddenly towards a particular place
  4. Hop - to go somewhere quickly or to get into or out of a vehicle quickly
  5. Bound - to move quickly with large jumping movements

Do they actually mean the same thing when they refer to traveling between systems by means of wormholes, hyperdrives, hypergates or some other way?

2 Answers 2


When speaking of hypothetical tech. the author is free to use words poetically. There are some common clichés that are used:

quantum leap In science, the smallest possible change in energy levels. Use metaphorically to mean a sudden dramatic change. Used in the sci fi to mean a sudden change in time and space, most notably in the Quantum Leap series.

Jump to hyperspace the "hyper" prefix is used in mathematics to indicate a higher dimension shape, such as a hypercube. In sci fi, making a hyperspace jump suggests traveling through a higher dimension. You'll also hear "jump to lightspeed", a sudden acceleration of a spacecraft to magically high speed. These hyperspace or lightspeed journeys are often not instantaneous.

Hop suggests something smaller than a jump. It might mean that the space craft disappears from one location and reappears in another instantaneously. Players of the 80s computer game Elite will remember that one could use hyperspace to travel from one star to another, then having arrived at a star, one could make "interspace hops" to rapidly approach the planet.

Bound does mean "jump" (From French bombir, originally meaning make a loud noise, ult. from L. bombus onomatopoeia for "buzzing") but it also has another meaning (from Norse búinn=prepared), which means "Moving in the direction of". It is this meaning when we say "Bound for the planet", Its not about jumping. (Bound has two more unrelated meanings, boundary and the past participle of bind. 4 homonyms!).

Spring: I can't recall this words being used in this context, though no doubt there is some author who has.

  • I've seen "bound for the surface" in sci-fi, speaking about a surface of a planet. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 9:42
  • 1
    bound for could mean "traveling towards". Compare "westward bound" and "homeward bound", bound for the west, bound for home, traveling west, traveling home.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 12:21
  • I've now explained how bound means both jump and travel towards (these are homonyms)
    – James K
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 14:11

These are verbs whose core meanings developed on terra firma, so they're always going to be used figuratively and without precise meaning when the subject is interstellar space travel. One fuzzy verb is as good as another. Moreover, it is often the case that speakers use words of imprecise measurement ironically or humorously, overstating or understating a fact.

It's just a two parsec hop.

  • So, generally it's hard to imaging the exact definition used in the context of sci-fi? You should always try to get to the roots of the verb in order to realize what the action will look like? Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 12:23
  • You should always understand the literal meaning in order to get some sense of the meaning of a figurative use. A "hop" used without irony is a relatively short trip. But it could be used ironically. It's not always easy to recognize irony in sci-fi, since the worlds are often strange.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 12:25
  • 1
    Or indeed, "Making the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs"
    – James K
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 13:58

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