I have been asked many times what the difference between “geek” and “nerd” is. I’ve always said that if you don’t classify yourself as either, it probably doesn’t concern you.
Burr Settles over at Slackpropagation gives us a good approximation and an analysis of the difference.
By the way, I may identify myself as a geek, but that doesn’t make me bound to being just that. Neither should you rigidly try to fit yourself to whatever label you identify yourself with.
To many people, “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, but in fact they are a little different. Consider the phrase “sports geek” — an occasional substitute for “jock” and perhaps the arch-rival of a “nerd” in high-school folklore. If “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, then “sports geek” might be an oxymoron. (Furthermore, “sports nerd” either doesn’t compute or means something else.)
In my mind, “geek” and “nerd” are related, but capture different dimensions of an intense dedication to a subject:
- geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
- nerd – A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.
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