Difference between Nerd and Geek

Key Difference: ‘Nerd’ and ‘geek’ are words that have stereotyped images of persons associated with them. In modern times, a nerd is generally used to refer to a person who is studious, undesirable and boring. On the other hand, geek is used to refer to a person who has an obsession for a particular field or a subject and is very enthusiastic about his field of interest.

‘Nerd’ and ‘geek’ are two popular words and are parts of the informal slang language that is mainly used by youngsters. What happens when somebody says that he is a nerd? What kind of image is created in your mind? You might think that he is foolish, intelligent, boring, and an introvert kind of person. Similarly, when someone tells you about a geek, your mind creates an image of that person and you relate the words like intelligent, passionate and fan of gadgets with that person.

These words sometimes create a confusion as even if one or two traits of a nerd or a geek are present in a person than he is also described as any one of them. It is not wrong, as the definitions have undergone several evolving phases and the context might slightly differ in the meanings. However, in this article we will define the current or modern usage of these words.

'Nerd' has been coined by Dr. Suess. In his story ‘If I ran the Zoo’ in 1950, he describes a character that is a grumpy humanoid with unruly hair and sideburns. This character wore a black t-shirt. This kind of style got associated with the word nerd. Thus, we can say that nerd was used to describe a comical character which had unpleasant characteristics. The usage and meaning have also changed in the following years and lot of speculations were made. During 1970, the word also got spelled as ‘Nurd’ meaning:-

  • Someone with objectionable habits or traits; an affected person
  • Undesirable person
  • An uninteresting person

It was in the year 1971, that we got the meaning of nerd as a slang, that we use today. It is often used to refer to an intellectually slow or foolish person.

Oxford Dictionary defines nerd as ‘a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.’ Thus, one can define nerd as somebody who is disliked for his foolishness or even if he is intelligent then also people do not like mixing with him.

The story behind the word 'geek' is also very interesting. The word was originally used as an insult. The first documented usage of this word can be traced back to 1916. The term was used to define the circus performers who used to perform crazy stuff. The performances also started to be known as geek performances. The word is supposed to be derived from the ‘geck’, a German word meaning fool or freak.

Merriam-webster dictionary defines geek as ‘an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity.’ The geeks are generally considered to be intelligent and passionate about something. The term is often used with a certain subject, field or thing, exhibiting the passion of a person towards that particular entity. For example, a computer geek may refer to a person who is passionate about computers or possess great information on computers.

One major difference between a nerd and a geek is that a nerd is supposed to be socially inept, whereas a geek may or may not mingle with the society. Most of the times, both are considered to be knowledgeable but the approach of acquiring the knowledge may differ. A geek can sometimes also be pretentious, whereas a nerd is always exhibiting his real traits.

Image Courtesy: internetascent.blogspot.in, hongkiat.com

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