Dear Croppie: Who Invented The Term ‘Crop Circle’?

May 30, 2022 | Dear Croppie

A question that comes up time and time again when it comes to our favourite mid-year distraction: just who invented the term ‘crop circle’?

Well … that’s not a question which is easy to answer.

According to Wikipedia on 30 May 2022, ‘the term was first coined in the early 1980s by Colin Andrews.’ The reference cited is Circular Evidence: A Detailed Investigation of the Flattened Swirled Crops Phenomenon, the 1989 book co-authored by Andrews and his cerealogical partner Pat Delgado. That’s fine, but there’s a hitch. Nowhere can The Croppie find anything in the book that shows Andrews definitely created the term; we can’t even find it in the book. 

Andrews also hasn’t shied away from repeating his authorship of ‘crop circle’. On 25 May 2022, Andrews replied to a post by Queen guitarist Brian May on the subject of the circles. Colin introduced himself as the individual who ‘coined the term crop circles back in the 1980s’.

So, Colin likes to claim the throne but where did he first use ‘crop circle’? The Croppie simply does not know. Perhaps Colin can give us a definitive answer should he be reading this.

Without evidence to support Andrews’ claim we are left looking elsewhere for the first reference to the phrase ‘crop circle’ in published literature.

In 1985’s Mystery of the Circles by Paul Fuller and Jenny Randles the authors write

The Wiltshire Times (8th July 1983) announced that “Theories buzz over corn circles” and that “UFO believers” were advising how they resembled “the landing pads of a giant flying saucer”.

Yes, that’s ‘corn circles’ rather than ‘crop circle’ but it gives an idea that the medium had been attached to the circle. 

However, in Fuller and Randles’ 1989 Controversy of the Circles we have what could be the very first use of ‘crop circle’. It appears in a paragraph considering the purpose of Stonehenge:

Were the stone circles (whose size and dimensions are similar to typical crop circles) built to deify the rings?

To date, this is the best solution we have to the question at the head of this article. ‘Crop circle’ was first used in printed literature by Paul Fuller and Jenny Randles during 1989. Of course, The Croppie is willing and eager to be corrected should verifiable — rather than anecdotal — evidence be provided.


Whilst browsing through back issues of the Journal of Meteorology — a publication then run by tornado researcher and cerealogist Terence Meaden — we discovered reference to a feature being shot for the BBC’s Country File programme. It was entitled ‘The Mystery of the Crop Circles’!

The issue of J. Met under discussion is vol. 1, no.131, dating from September 1988. It is after this date that the publication prefers use of the term ‘crop circle’ over ‘swirled circle’.

Can anyone find older references to ‘crop circles’?