The word geek is a slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 term, with different meanings ranging from "a computer expert or enthusiast" to "a carnival
Traveling carnival
A traveling carnival is an amusement show that may be made up of amusement rides, food vendors, merchandise vendors, games of chance and skill, thrill acts, animal acts or sideshow curiosities. A traveling carnival is not set up at a permanent location, like an amusement park, but is moved from...

 performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts", with a general pejorative meaning of "a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp[ecially] one who is perceived to be overly intellectual".

This word comes from English dialect geek, geck: fool, freak
In current usage, the word "freak" is commonly used to refer to a person with something unusual about their appearance or behaviour. This usage dates from the so-called freak scene of the 1960s and 1970s. "Freak" in this sense may be used either as a pejorative, a term of admiration, or a...

; from Low German geck, from Middle Low German. The root geck still survives in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 and Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

 gek: crazy, as well as some German dialects
German dialects
German dialect is dominated by the geographical spread of the High German consonant shift, and the dialect continuum that connects the German with the Dutch language.-German dialects in relation to varieties of standard German:...

, and in the Alsatian
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 word Gickeleshut: geek's hat, used in carnivals.

The word appears in the modern sense of a science, math, or technology enthusiast in Robert Heinlein's 1952 short story "The Year of the Jackpot
The Year of the Jackpot
The Year of the Jackpot is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein, first published 1952, and collected in one of Heinlein's anthologies, The Menace from Earth....


Formerly, in 18th century Austria-Hungary, Gecken were freaks shown by some circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

In 19th century, in North-America, the term geek referred to a freak in circus side-show
In America, a sideshow is an extra, secondary production associated with a circus, carnival, fair or other such attraction.- Types of attractions :There are four main types of classic sideshow attractions:...

s (see also freak show
Freak show
A freak show is an exhibition of biological rarities, referred to as "freaks of nature". Typical features would be physically unusual humans, such as those uncommonly large or small, those with both male and female secondary sexual characteristics, people with other extraordinary diseases and...

). In some cases, its performance included biting the head off a live chicken. The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek show
Geek show
Geek Shows were an act in traveling circuses of early America and were often part of a larger sideshow. The billed performer's act consisted of a single geek, who stood in center ring to chase live chickens. It ended with the performer biting the chickens' heads off and swallowing them...


Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also often used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride - an example is the 'Geek Squad
Geek Squad
The Geek Squad is a subsidiary of the Best Buy Company and is based in Richfield, Minnesota. It was originally founded on June 16, 1994 by Robert Stephens. The company offers various computer-related services and accessories for residential and commercial clients...

' of the Best Buy
Best Buy
Best Buy Co., Inc. is an American specialty retailer of consumer electronics in the United States, accounting for 19% of the market. It also operates in Mexico, Canada & China. The company's subsidiaries include Geek Squad, CinemaNow, Magnolia Audio Video, Pacific Sales, and, in Canada operates...



The definition of geek has changed considerably over time, and there is no longer a definitive meaning. The terms nerd
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

, gimp
Gimp may refer to:* GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program* Gimp , a type of sexual submissive in BDSM who may wear a bondage suit* Gimp , an ornamental trim used in sewing or embroidery...

, dweeb
Dweebs was an American television comedy program that ran on CBS from September 22–November 9, 1995, before it was canceled. 10 episodes were produced, of which six aired during the original airing schedule, and the remaining four episodes were aired elsewhere at a later date.The show starred...

, dork, spod and gump have similar meanings as geek, but many choose to identify different connotations among these terms, although the differences are disputed. In a 2007 interview on The Colbert Report, Richard Clarke
Richard A. Clarke
Richard Alan Clarke was a U.S. government employee for 30 years, 1973–2003. He worked for the State Department during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to chair the Counter-terrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National...

 said the difference between nerds and geeks is "geeks get it done." Julie Smith
Julie Smith
Julie Smith is an American mystery writer, the author of nineteen novels and several short stories. She received the 1991 Edgar Award for Best Novel for her sixth book, New Orleans Mourning ....

 defined a geek as "a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace—somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house."

Other definitions include:
  • A derogatory reference to a person obsessed with intellectual pursuits for their own sake, who is also deficient in most other human attributes so as to impair the person's smooth operation within society.
  • A person who is interested in technology
    Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

    , especially computing
    Computing is usually defined as the activity of using and improving computer hardware and software. It is the computer-specific part of information technology...

     and new media
    New media
    New media is a broad term in media studies that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century. For example, new media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content any time, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community...

    . Geeks are adept with computers, and use the term hacker in a positive way, though not all are hackers themselves.
  • A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies; for example, using multivariate calculus to determine how they should correctly optimize the dimensions of a pan to bake a cake.
  • A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.
  • A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest. This definition is very broad but because many of these interests have mainstream endorsement and acceptance, the inclusion of some genres as "geeky" is heavily debated. Persons have been labeled as or chosen to identify as physics
    Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

     geeks, mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

     geeks, engineering
    Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

     geeks, sci-fi geeks, computer
    A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

     geeks, various science
    Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

     geeks, movie and film
    A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

     geeks (cinephile
    Kenny Inglis and Susan Wallace are the duo behind Cinephile, a trip-hop band from Glasgow famous for the song "What Becomes of Us ?" which was played during an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation....

    ), comic book
    Comic book
    A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

     geeks, theater geeks, history
    History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

     geeks, music
    Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

     geeks, sport
    A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

     geeks, art
    Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

     geeks, philosophy
    Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

     geeks, literature
    Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

     geeks, historical reenactment
    Historical reenactment
    Historical reenactment is an educational activity in which participants attempt torecreate some aspects of a historical event or period. This may be as narrow as a specific moment from a battle, such as the reenactment of Pickett's Charge at the Great Reunion of 1913, or as broad as an entire...

     geeks, video game geeks, and roleplay geeks.
  • A more recent school of thought sees nerd as being a derogatory phrase, while geek is simply a description. It is taken to be someone who is an enthusiast, often in things outside of the mainstream spectrum. It may also describe immersion in a particular mainstream interest to an extreme that is beyond normalcy (e.g. sports geek). Of note is that in this definition, there is no reference to being socially inept in the slightest.

Reclamation and self-identification

Although being described as a geek tends to be an insult, the term has recently become more complimentary, or even a badge of honor, within particular fields. This is particularly evident in the technical disciplines, where the term is now often a compliment, denoting extraordinary skill. Geek Pride Day has been observed on May 25 in Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 since 2006 (May 25 being the world premiere date of Star Wars
Star Wars
Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year...

 and also Towel Day
Towel Day
Towel Day is celebrated every 25 May as a tribute by fans of the late author Douglas Adams. On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their love for the books and the author, as referred to in Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

). The holiday promotes the right to be nerdy or geeky, and to express it in public without shame. A new convention, Geek.Kon
Geek.Kon is an anime, science fiction, and gaming convention in Madison, Wisconsin, United States.Geek.Kon began in 2007 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as a two day free convention. In 2009 it moved to the Madison Sheraton Hotel, expanded to three days and began charging admission...

, has sprung up in Madison, Wisconsin with a purpose to celebrate all things geek. The website BoardGameGeek
BoardGameGeek is a website that was founded in January 2000 by Scott Alden and Derk Solko as a resource for the board gaming hobby. The database holds reviews, articles, and session reports for over 45,000 different games, expansions, and designers. BoardGameGeek includes German-style board games,...

 is an online community of boardgamers who identify themselves as geeks at game conventions; they call their website "The Geek," for short. Technical support services such as Geek Squad
Geek Squad
The Geek Squad is a subsidiary of the Best Buy Company and is based in Richfield, Minnesota. It was originally founded on June 16, 1994 by Robert Stephens. The company offers various computer-related services and accessories for residential and commercial clients...

 use the term geek to signify helpful technical abilities. In recent history, some geeks have cultivated a geek culture, such as geek humor
Geek humor
Geek humor or geek humour, also known as nerd humor, is a form of comedy that relies on references to geek culture.-Definition:By the strictest definition, geek humor is a branch of humor that encompasses the interest ranges of individuals who are either known as geeks or consciously identify as...

 and obscure references on t-shirts. The so-called geek chic trend is a deliberate affectation of geek or nerd traits as a fashion statement. Nonetheless, the derogatory definition of geeks remains that of a person engrossed in his area of interest at the cost of social skills, personal hygiene, and status.

There has been criticism over the widespread appropriation of the terms "geek" and "nerd" as self descriptors, especially by individuals who would have most likely not been described as such under the traditional stereotype. Along with efforts to de-emphasize the negative social aspects, in recent years there have been arguments for de-emphasizing the necessity for having noticeably exceptional levels of intelligence or technical aptitude. This has resulted in the desire to redefine the term geek rather as any person who pursues a passionate interest in anything regardless of genre, is creative
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

, and individualistic. Arguments against the revisionist definitions, however, state that it is not only unnecessary, but it completely contradicts the traditional accepted definition of the terms which distinctly refer to persons who are noticeably above average intelligence, usually more adept in technically demanding fields, and socially awkward or alienated to some degree.

Geek chic

"Geek chic" refers to the embracing of stereotypically "geek" characteristics including black-rimmed glasses
Glasses, also known as eyeglasses , spectacles or simply specs , are frames bearing lenses worn in front of the eyes. They are normally used for vision correction or eye protection. Safety glasses are a kind of eye protection against flying debris or against visible and near visible light or...

, T-shirts with geek in-jokes, and more technically complex accessories.

There are multiple interpretations of the term "geek chic", with heavy black-rimmed glasses being the sole defining trait as far as the press is concerned. Wearing them is sufficiently notable to have celebrities like David Beckham
David Beckham
David Robert Joseph Beckham, OBE is an English footballer who plays midfield for Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer, having previously played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, and A.C...

, Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake
Justin Randall Timberlake is an American pop musician and actor. He achieved early fame when he appeared as a contestant on Star Search, and went on to star in the Disney Channel television series The New Mickey Mouse Club, where he met future bandmate JC Chasez...

 and Myleene Klass
Myleene Klass
Myleene Angela Quinn is an English singer, pianist, media personality and occasional model. She was formerly a member of the defunct British pop band Hear'Say.-Early life:...

 being reported as "trying geek chic". David Tennant
David Tennant
David Tennant is a Scottish actor. In addition to his work in theatre, including a widely praised Hamlet, Tennant is best known for his role as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, along with the title role in the 2005 TV serial Casanova and as Barty Crouch, Jr...

, the Tenth Doctor
Tenth Doctor
The Tenth Doctor is the tenth incarnation of the protagonist of the long-running BBC television science-fiction series Doctor Who. He is played by David Tennant, who appears in three series, as well as eight specials...

 in Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

, has also described the look of his bespectacled character as having "a bit of geek chic".

To geeks themselves, the term is used for "reclaiming the geek identity as something not only meaningful, but also stylish." - for this usage, more than mere spectacle frames are required, and so the term has a wider remit, being applied to home furnishings and objects as well as oufits. In this usage, the term "geek chic" can even be used as a positive contrast to the somewhat more negative term "geeky".

Geek chic is not to be confused with preppie fashion, which is more widely associated with a conservative image rather than geek culture. Instead, much of the geek chic image borrows from various alternative youth fashions such as goth
Goth subculture
The goth subculture is a contemporary subculture found in many countries. It began in England during the early 1980s in the gothic rock scene, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify...

, hippie
The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The etymology of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into San Francisco's...

, and bohemian
Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits...

 among others, but t-shirts with geeky in-jokes seem to originate from the geeks themselves, with shirt designers who tailor to geeks offering rewards for the best ideas.

See also

  • Anorak
    Anorak (slang)
    In British slang an anorak is a person who has a very strong interest, perhaps obsessive, in niche subjects. This interest may be unacknowledged or not understood by the general public...

     and Boffin
    In the slang of the United Kingdom, boffins are scientists, medical doctors, engineers, and other people engaged in technical or scientific research.-Origin:...

    , British slang for "geek"
  • Akiba-kei
    or is a Japanese slang term similar in meaning to otaku.-Definition:Akiba-kei is a Japanese slang term meaning "Akihabara style". It dates back to the early 80s and refers to a subset of otaku, now largely older males, who spend much of their time in and around the Akihabara area of Tokyo and are...

     and Otaku
    is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga or video games.- Etymology :Otaku is derived from a Japanese term for another's house or family , which is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun...

    , Japanese slang for "geek"
  • Autodidactism
  • Behavior
    Behavior or behaviour refers to the actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with its environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment...

  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
    Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
    Obsessive–compulsive personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.- Signs and symptoms :The primary symptoms of OCPD...

  • Cracker (computing)
  • Dissocial personality disorder
  • Enthusiast
  • Hacker (term)
  • Geek Code
    Geek Code
    The Geek Code is a series of letters and symbols used by self-described "geeks" to inform fellow geeks about their personality, appearance, interests, and opinions. The idea is that everything that makes a geek individual and different from all the other geeks in the world can be written down in...

  • Geek girl
    Geek girl
    Geek girl is a 21st-century term, signifying a gendered subgenre within the modern geek subculture.- History :The return of the word "geek" in the mid-1990s can be traced to the popularization of workplace computing and the Internet and the dot-com bubble of 1995-2000...

  • Geek humor
    Geek humor
    Geek humor or geek humour, also known as nerd humor, is a form of comedy that relies on references to geek culture.-Definition:By the strictest definition, geek humor is a branch of humor that encompasses the interest ranges of individuals who are either known as geeks or consciously identify as...

  • Geekcorps
    Geekcorps is a non-profit organization that sends people with technical skills to developing countries to assist in computer infrastructure development...

  • Nerd
    Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

  • Norm (sociology)
    Norm (sociology)
    Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

  • Social anxiety
    Social anxiety
    Social anxiety is anxiety about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people...

  • Technosexual
    thumb|right|200px|Android Gigolo Joe is a "technosex symbol".Technosexual is a term used to describe an individual in one of two ways:# A person with a strong aesthetic sense and a love of gadgets...

  • Robert Lanham
    Robert Lanham
    Robert Lanham is the author of the satiric books The Hipster Handbook, Food Court Druids, Cherohonkees, and Other Creatures Unique to the Republic, and The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. He coined the term idiosyncrology, the study of idiosyncratic people, and his books often parody the...

    , author of The Hipster Handbook
  • Girl Geek Dinners
    Girl Geek Dinners
    Girl Geek Dinners is an informal organization that promotes the presence of women in the Information technology industry. It has 64 established chapters in 23 countries. It was founded in London in August 2005 by Sarah Blow who was tired of being the only woman at technical events. Chapters...

External links

  • The Geek Test
  • Geek Culture: The Third Counter-Culture, an article discussing geek culture as a new kind of counter-culture.
  • Hoevel, Ann. "Are you a nerd or a geek?" CNN
    Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

    . December 2, 2010.
  • "Geek Chic", USA Today
    USA Today
    USA Today is a national American daily newspaper published by the Gannett Company. It was founded by Al Neuharth. The newspaper vies with The Wall Street Journal for the position of having the widest circulation of any newspaper in the United States, something it previously held since 2003...

    , October 22, 2003
  • "Suddenly, It's Hip to be Square", Associated Press
    Associated Press
    The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

    , July 18, 2005
  • "How Geek Chic Works"
  • Nerd Project at the Wikiversity
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