In the Blade Runner films a common derogatory term for replicants is "skinjob", apparently also contracted to "skinner" in 2049 (maybe in 2019 already, too). It is, however, not entirely clear to me what this derives from or refers to. I could see two possible origins for that term, but am not entirely sold on any of them, let alone aware of an official etymology for it:

  • It could refer to their nature as slaves, seeing how their only purpose is to do jobs and they're nothing more than jobs wearing a human skin.
  • It could as well derive from the profession of the Blade Runners with the replicants just being targets, or jobs, for the Blade Runners, again clad in human skin.

It seems to come down to basically reducing their existence to jobs from a dehumanizing and utilitarian viewpoint, similar to the use of "retirement" as euphemism for killing. But for all I know it could as well go back to some totally non-semantical mash-up of a term from a different language altogether, seeing how the world of Blade Runner is a big cultural mash-up anyway.

So is there anything known about the origins and meaning of the term "skinjob" in the Blade Runner films? Does it actually originate from Philip K. Dick's novel the movies are supposedly based on and does that reveal a little more about its etymology? Or is there some out-of-universe origin-story sheding more light on its in-universe meaning?

  • I'm struggling to recall an origin story for an in-universe answer or back story for where the term 'skinjob' come from, but I think both of your observations are likely the case and are exactly what PKD/RS wanted you to take away from it--slavery, inequality, and hypocracy of humanity's own distastefulness. As an out of universe answer in works, especially fantasy or science fiction, authors tend to create their own in-verse terminology which is then their "lexicon" to help create the world, tone, and/or sociopolitical/philosophical points of interest. Oct 16, 2017 at 23:55
  • Are we sure that “skinner” is a contraction of “skinjob” rather than a derogatory term for the people/replicants who retired skinjobs? After all, two of the prostitutes who approach K seem to be disgusted by the fact that he is a Blade Runner.
    – DaG
    Oct 17, 2017 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


I am unaware of an origin-story for the term, but I always imagined that it was derived from a progresssion of AI in society. Initially AI was solely internal, in computers, etc. Eventually it would progress into mechanical devices and then robots. To modern, xenophobic bigots, replicants are just robots made from skin so skinjobs is a natural pejorative term (-job being used in the same context as, say, "nutjob").


It probably has to do with the fact that replicants are, externally, human-appearing while being something both more lowly and something to be feared.

There are many commonly used phrases about beauty and appearances only being "skin-deep." I think the "skin" reference is about them only being human-looking, and not fully human.

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