Cineast is a French borrowing that made its American premiere in the mid-1920s. The French spliced together "ciné" and "-aste" to create "cinéaste," a word for a filmmaker or movie director. "Ciné" in French is just another word for "cinema," and "-aste" is a suffix that appears in words like "gymnaste" and "enthousiaste." "Cinéaste" underwent several changes once it was established in English. Some writers anglicized its spelling, shortening "-aste" to "-ast" (although "cineaste" and "cinéaste" are also still used). Others began to use "cineast" to mean "film buff," and that's the sense that is most common today.
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